Safest Teeth Whiteners
The safest ways to whiten your teeth explained
Tooth enamel, gum tissue, and cementum normally cover and protect teeth roots and nerves. Sensitive teeth typically develop when the tooth roots or nerves are less protected or exposed.
Sensitive teeth may temporarily hurt when you brush your teeth, eat, or drink. Contact with cold, hot, or sweet foods or drinks can also cause pain in sensitive teeth.
A tooth’s hard, outer layer is called enamel. It covers dentin, a layer of tissue full of tiny tubes that connect to the nerve, or heart, of the tooth. Cementum is the layer under the gum line that covers the dentin on the tooth root. The gum tissues also help protect dentin and tooth roots.
Tooth roots or dentin become exposed when enamel, cementum, or gum tissue is damaged or eroded.
Several common habits and factors can lead to tooth sensitivity. These include:
Tooth sensitivity is common and often not a cause for concern. For example, tooth sensitivity is common in younger people since the nerves in their teeth are larger. But some conditions that cause sensitivity require medical attention.
More serious causes of tooth sensitivity include:
There is no real way to fix tooth sensitivity with at-home methods. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce symptoms and prevent them from worsening. For example:
Plaque can cause sensitivity when it contacts root surfaces. It causes inflammation around the ligaments of teeth. Poor oral hygiene can also lead to tooth decay, which damages enamel and dentin.
Brush the teeth twice daily using a toothpaste with fluoride and floss daily to minimize plaque.
Some desensitizing toothpastes available over the counter contain compounds that limit sensitivity. Remineralizing toothpastes contain ingredients that help restore enamel.
You have to use these products continuously to achieve an effect. For example, you can apply a small amount of desensitizing toothpaste directly to your teeth before bed.
Look for products with the American Dental Association's (ADA’s) Seal of Acceptance.
Foods with a lot of acid can erode tooth enamel. Exposure to acid can also intensify tooth sensitivity and cause pain.
Examples of acidic foods and drinks include:
Use a straw when drinking acidic beverages to reduce acid contact with teeth. Neutralize acid levels in the mouth after eating or drinking acidic foods by rinsing with water.
“It is important NOT to brush your teeth immediately after exposure to an acidic substance, as this can actually cause your enamel to wear away when your teeth are most vulnerable,” says Dr. Khushbu Aggarwal, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists. “Wait at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth after eating or drinking to ensure the pH balance in your mouth has been restored,” she adds.
Tooth grinding or clenching can wear down tooth enamel. For some people, actively thinking about not clenching or grinding can help. You can also wear devices like a night guard to prevent tooth wear that results from grinding.
Toothbrushes with soft bristles are less abrasive on tooth surfaces and protect enamel. Soft bristled toothbrushes also tend to irritate or damage gums tissues less.
Gentle tooth brushing can prevent further enamel damage. Brushing the gums gently can also reduce gum damage and recession. Some electric toothbrushes have pressure indicators that let you know when you are brushing too aggressively.
Fluoridated mouthwash or mouth rinses can reduce sensitivity if you use them daily. Fluoride helps strengthen enamel and prevent tooth decay.
Whitening tooth products contain ingredients like baking soda and hydrogen peroxide that can damage enamel and/or dentin over time.
Some OTC mouthwashes have a low pH that can damage exposed dentin. Talk to a dentist about using neutral fluoride products if you have sensitive teeth.
Sugars in sweet foods and drinks can cause pain in sensitive teeth. They can also worsen tooth decay and increase the risk of developing cavities.
Regular teeth cleaning and in-office fluoride treatments every 6 months can reduce sensitivity.
A lot of people experience mild tooth sensitivity.
But talk to a dentist if you experience signs and symptoms associated with more serious underlying conditions, such as:
To diagnose tooth sensitivity, a dentist will ask you questions about your pain, such as:
A dentist will also examine your teeth and mouth to diagnose or assess tooth sensitivity. During the exam, they may expose teeth to air or water to mimic sensitivity triggers. They may also press on the teeth or gums.
A dentist can perform several procedures to treat tooth sensitivity.
If your enamel is damaged, worn down, or weak, a dentist may apply a highly-concentrated fluoride gel or a medicament called gluma to the teeth. Your dentist may also give you prescription fluoride products to use at home.
A dentist may also perform certain procedures to cover exposed tooth roots if they’re causing sensitivity. Common treatment options for exposed roots include:
Some causes of tooth sensitivity are unpreventable, like age. But there are ways to prevent teeth from becoming overly sensitive.
Tips for preventing tooth sensitivity include:
Tooth sensitivity develops when a tooth’s roots or nerves are less protected than they should be. This tends to occur when layers of teeth, such as the enamel and cementum, are worn down or damaged. It may also occur when the gums recede.
Several at-home remedies can reduce symptoms of tooth sensitivity and prevent it from worsening. But talk to a dentist about severe tooth sensitivity or sensitivity accompanied by other symptoms.