If the thought of having a hot coffee or a cold Popsicle makes you cringe, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not alone. Chew on this: 1 in 8 adults may suffer from pain brought on by sensitive teeth, and women are 1.8 times more likely than men to have the condition, according to a study published in this monthÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.
To get to the root of the issue, 37 general dental practices across the U.S. helped collect data from 787 adults. Beyond the results mentioned above, the researchers discovered that study participants who performed at-home tooth whitening or have receding gum lines were the most likely to report pain.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tooth sensitivity is often caused by enamel wearing away on the outside of the tooth, exposing the tubes that connect nerves inside the tooth,Ã¢â‚¬Â explains Carolyn Taggart-Burns, DDS, FAGD, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry, who was not involved with the study. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Many things can bring about the pain, but there are simple ways to reverse the effects,Ã¢â‚¬Â she says.
Here, Taggart-Burns and Frank Orlando DDS, FAGD, FICOI, Founding Member of the American Academy of Oral Systemic Health, share simple tricks to keep pain at bay:
Use the right tools Make sure youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re using a soft-bristled toothbrush. Harder brushes can contribute to receding gums, which expose dentinÃ¢â‚¬”the super-sensitive tissue that makes up the core of each toothÃ¢â‚¬” which can lead to pain. For additional protection, use desensitizing toothpastes (like Sensodyne or Crest Pro Health Enamel Shield) and a mouth rinse that contains stannous fluoride (try Perio Med). Their special formula blocks the tubes in the teeth that are connected to nerves, reducing the pain.
Perfect your brushing technique You may think that brushing your teeth is a simple process, but thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s actually a right and a wrong way to do it. The wrong way: Brushing in a back-and-forth motion, which can cause receding gums. Instead, hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and brush in a circular motion. Just donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t push too hard, because that can wear down the toothÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s surface and expose sensitive spots. One way to tell if you need to ease up: If the bristles are mashed against your teeth and pointing in all different directions.
Swish with warm water A sensitive tooth may be irritated if you brush with cold water. Stick with warmÃ¢â‚¬”but not hotÃ¢â‚¬”water. This wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help decrease sensitivity, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll at least feel better and wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make you wince.
Go easy on the bleach At-home whitening treatments can contain abrasive ingredients that increase tooth sensitivity and cause painÃ¢â‚¬” especially when used too often. Whiten up no more than once every 6 months to ward off pain.
Watch what you drink and wait to brush Eating acidic foods and beverages on a regular basis can cause enamel (the glossy, protective outer layer of the tooth) to erode, increasing the likelihood of sensitivity. Trade soda, wine, coffee, energy drinks, and fruit juice for water, and eat tomatoes and citrus fruits in moderation. CanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help but indulge in something acidic? Drink through a straw to minimize exposure to the acids, and then rinse your mouth with water after to neutralize the pH. Then wait 30 minutes before brushing.
photo: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock More from WH:
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