Content reviewed by Dr. Abouhassan of Whyte Ave Dental Choice.
After a long, hot run or day on the beach, you want nothing more than an ice-cold drink. You pull a chilled bottle from the fridge, chug it down — and wince. The same sharp pain occurs when you take your first sip of a steaming coffee. It’s not that you’ve burned yourself — it’s your teeth. Certain foods and beverages can cause pain, and sometimes even a burst of cold air can make your mouth hurt. You might even find yourself avoiding drinks you enjoy, wondering, “why are my teeth so sensitive?”
If you experience tooth twinges when you have hot or cold beverages, sweets and sour foods, you’re probably suffering from sensitive teeth pain. But you don’t have to stop sipping your favorite lattes or milkshakes — there are other ways to care for your teeth to avoid sensitivity. Here’s what you need to know about sensitive teeth causes and how to control them.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Sensitive teeth typically occur as a result of worn tooth enamel, exposed root areas or some tooth erosion from acidic beverages. When enamel — the teeth’s protective outer layering — wears away, your nerve endings are exposed to everything your teeth come into contact with. Sugary snacks and extremely hot or cold beverages can be a shock to your nerve endings, causing pain.
Regular consumption of acidic foods and beverages, grinding your teeth in your sleep, gum recession and brushing too hard can all wear down your enamel or expose the roots of your teeth to increased sensitivity.
How to Control Sensitive Teeth Pain
Depending on the cause and severity of your tooth pain, there are a variety of ways you can control and treat your sensitive teeth symptoms. Some mild ways of preventing pain and protecting your teeth include:
- Brushing your teeth more gently: You may think aggressive brushing will clean your teeth more thoroughly, but it can actually wear out your enamel. Try easing up the pressure and using softer strokes.
- Avoiding acids: Especially acidic foods and drinks like citrus, vinegar, soda and sugary treats can erode your enamel and make your teeth more sensitive. Instead, stick mostly to fiber-rich vegetables and fruits, milk, cheese and whole grains that will help fight enamel-attacking bacteria.
- Stopping bleaching treatment: If you’re undergoing dental treatment for whiter teeth, the bleach may be the cause for your hypersensitivity. Talk to your dentist about taking a break for a while.
- Unclenching your teeth: Stress can cause you to grind your teeth, which damages your enamel and causes pain. Try to address the stressors in your life and find a healthier way of relieving tension.
If none of these methods are easing your sensitivity, you might need to see your dentist about other treatments, including:
- Fillings for exposed roots
- Fluoride gels
- Toothpaste for sensitive teeth
- Desensitizing pastes