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What can one do to combat sensitive teeth?

It is estimated that every fourth adult in England suffers from sensitive teeth. Whether when enjoying cold or warm food and drinks or brushing one's teeth – there are many causes for painful teeth. We'll give you tips for what to do about it. If you suffer from extremely sensitive teeth, though, you should definitely visit your dentist.

Causes for sensitive teeth

Teeth that are sensitive to pain (dentine hypersensitivity) are particularly sensitive to cold and sugary foods. When you ask yourself why your teeth are so sensitive, the answer is usually: because of exposed necks on the teeth. Usually the neck of the tooth is covered by protective gums. However, when the gums recede or get inflamed, the teeth can suddenly react sensitively. In contrast to crowns and roots of the teeth, the tooth necks are either not covered by tooth enamel or only by very little, and so external stimuli can reach the tooth nerve directly. The result: a flash of pain that is extremely uncomfortable.

There are yet further triggers for sensitive teeth. Examples include consuming alcohol, pregnancy or whitening. 

Sensitivity to hot and cold

The cause for sometimes getting very severe, shooting pain when enjoying cold, warm, sweet or sour foods is exposed tooth necks. Since the protective layer is missing in this area of the tooth, mainly thermal and osmotic stimuli can directly impact the nerve processes. This is why the teeth are sensitive to cold and react to heat. If you teeth are sensitive to cold, you should ideally have them checked in your dental practice, so as to be able to counteract any deterioration in your dental health.

Sensitive teeth due to pregnancy

The teeth and gums can also become sensitive during pregnancy. The reasons for painful teeth during pregnancy are:

  • Hormones: during pregnancy, the body goes through major hormonal changes, which can lead to sensitive teeth.

  • Increased blood circulation: the circulation of blood in the body is increased in order to supply the baby. However, this can also cause the gums to swell and trigger sensitivities.

  • Gum disease: pregnant women are more prone to sore and infected gums, which also makes teeth more sensitive. Warning: gum disease can even cause labour to set in prematurely!

Sensitive teeth after a teeth cleaning

People with sensitive teeth, especially, can experience pain after dental treatments or after a professional teeth cleaning. One reason for this is that tartar acts like a protective layer. If it is removed, the necks of the teeth may get exposed and therefore also more irritated. If the teeth cleaning was also carried out not so gently, pain can arise in several teeth. 

However, the pain should be gone after 3 days at the latest. If this is not the case, please contact your dental practice.

Sensitive teeth after whitening

The reason for pain after whitening (tooth bleaching) is the "whitener", hydrogen peroxide. This is the same substance that is used to bleach hair. The higher the concentration of peroxide in the bleach, the more aggressively the teeth are whitened. Toothache often occurs during the early phase of bleaching, when the hydrogen peroxide penetrates the tooth enamel. It is not just the incisors – all of the other teeth can also be affected by the pain. 

Usually the pain subsides after about 3 days. If you experience severe pain after whitening, or if the pain lasts for a prolonged period, it is essential that you consult your dentist. 

Sensitive teeth due to vitamin deficiencies

Toothache can also be attributed to a vitamin deficiency. Vitamins are important for our entire body, including our dental and oral health. If our vitamin intake is insufficient, this can upset our metabolism. This, in turn, makes the teeth brittle, increases the risk of tooth decay and weakens the gums. This can lead to swelling and redness, but also to gum pain. Vitamin D, in particular, plays an important role in dental health. 

Sensitive teeth after alcohol

Maybe you've had that experience where you treat yourself to a delicious cocktail and then suddenly your teeth hurt? Toothache due to alcohol is not uncommon. The reasons are as follows:

  • Usually, the oral cavity maintains a pH value of around 7. Ethanol, the main component of alcohol, has a pH of 5 and is therefore acidic. The protective layer of the tooth is thus attacked, and the tooth weakened.

  • Many alcoholic beverages also contain a lot of sugar. This is a real paradise for the bacteria in our oral cavity. They feed on sugar and excrete acids after digestion, which will also attack our teeth. The result: toothache after consuming alcohol.

What you can do to combat sensitive teeth

Sensitive teeth are not always a reason to go to the dentist. However, it is advisable if you have, for example, exposed tooth necks and severe pain. What can you yourself do to combat sensitive teeth? We have a few tips for you.

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Toothpaste & mouthwash

It is the case that the more vigorously and often we brush our teeth, the better? No! Because this can actually attack the enamel, which in turn makes the teeth more sensitive. Instead, you should use a toothbrush with soft bristles – whether a manual or electric toothbrush – and clean your teeth gently. 

It is also advisable to use special toothpaste and mouth rinse if your teeth are sensitive to pain. Toothpaste and mouthwash for sensitive teeth contain special ingredients that soothe the nerve endings and make them less sensitive. In addition, the fluoride contained can strengthen the enamel.

Home remedies

Home remedies for sensitive teeth are particularly effective for acute pain relief. The following home remedies are recommended for teeth that are sensitive to pain:

  • Cloves: the eugenol contained in the dried flower bud has a disinfectant, anti-inflammatory and anaesthetising effect. For quick pain relief, place the clove on the affected tooth and bite it. This allows the effect to unfold. 

  • Tea tree oil: gently dab the painful area with a cotton bud. Tea tree oil has an anti-inflammatory effect and is therefore an ideal home remedy for sensitive teeth.

  • Sage and chamomile tea: once it has cooled, swish the tea infusion back and forth between your teeth. The ingredients have a soothing effect on the teeth.

  • Avoid acidic foods: sweet and sour foods can irritate the necks of the teeth. If you eat fruit, it is best to do so with some yoghurt. The calcium it contains prevents the acid from attacking the tooth enamel. 

  • Smoking less: the nicotine in cigarettes restricts blood flow to the gums and makes them more prone to inflammation.

Having your teeth sealed

There is also the option of having teeth that are sensitive to pain sealed. During a professional teeth cleaning, a special fluoride varnish is applied, which wraps around the exposed neck of the tooth like a protective coat. The sensitive tooth necks are therefore better protected, and cold or heat no longer cause flashes of pain.

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