Having sensitive teeth can make something as simple as enjoying a cool glass of water a painful ordeal. To help you avoid this uncomfortable feeling, we’ve listed seven of the most common causes of sensitive teeth—avoid these behaviors and you may once again be able to enjoy a bowl of ice cream without worrying about tooth pain.
Mouthwash. While it can be a good addition to your dental hygiene routine, using too much mouthwash may actually cause more harm than good. This is because some mouthwashes contain harmful acids that can damage your teeth and make any pre-existing sensitivity worse. If you just can’t go without rinsing your mouth throughout the day, ask your dentist about neutral fluoride rinse—they’ll still provide you with that fresh feeling but won’t cause sensitivity-inducing damage.
Acidic foods. Tomatoes, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, and their juices are all rich in acidic properties that can eat away at tooth enamel and expose the vulnerable dentin underneath. Enjoying highly acidic foods too often can wear down the protective enamel, exposing dentin that makes your teeth sensitive. If you just can’t cut out your acidic favorites, try eating a piece of cheese or drinking a glass of milk afterward to neutralize the acidity.
Tooth whiteners. While everyone wants those pearly whites to look their best, using whiteners with peroxide-based bleaching solutions may leave your teeth feeling too sensitive to smile. The sensitivity associated with teeth whitening is often temporary, but it is still a good idea to discuss the safest options with your dentist.
Aggressive brushing. Brushing your teeth is one of the easiest and best ways to look after your smile, but brushing too hard may cause more harm than good. While you might think that brushing harder will better clean your teeth of plaque and bacteria, this aggressive brushing can cause your gums to recede, exposing the sensitive roots of your teeth to an onslaught of stimuli. Brushing too hard may also wear down the protective enamel, revealing the dentin beneath and making your teeth even more sensitive.
Cracked teeth. Crunching on hard candies and ice may cause tiny cracks and chips in your teeth that expose the nerves within. These nerves can become irritated when chewing rubs the cracked pieces of tooth together, or if bacteria becomes trapped in the crack and causes inflammation.
Grinding your teeth. The often unconscious habits of clenching or grinding your teeth can cause your tooth enamel to wear away and leave the dentin and nerves more vulnerable. If you find you grind your teeth at night, your dentist may suggest a mouth guard to help protect your teeth from the wear and tear that can leave them more sensitive.
Tooth decay. Tooth decay—such as a cavity—can expose the sensitive roots and nerves of your teeth and leave them vulnerable to irritants such as hot, cold, or sweet foods. The best way to avoid tooth decay is to practice good oral hygiene and see your dentist regularly so any issues may be treated before decay develops.
Your smile is one of the first things people notice about you, and keeping it healthy is not only important for your oral health, but for your overall health too. Avoid developing sensitive teeth by limiting your use of mouthwash and consumption of acidic foods as well as exposure to teeth whiteners. Try not to brush too hard or grind your teeth and avoid tooth decay and cracks. Sensitive teeth may hinder your ability to enjoy certain foods, so avoiding the behaviors above may improve your quality of life and your health.