Do you avoid allowing cold drinks to have contact with your teeth?
Does just thinking about sinking your teeth into some frozen dessert cause you to shudder from the pain you know you’d experience?
Sensitive teeth inhibit our lives in so many ways.
Tooth sensitivity can get so bad that even allowing cool air to touch your precious smile can cause pain. It’s tragic when we hold back a smile for fear of pain.
Something’s gotta change…
So let’s explore the causes of sensitive teeth, some common triggers for tooth sensitivity, and some simple strategies you can easily implement at home to get rid of tooth sensitivity.
Sad stats on sensitive teeth…
Tooth sensitivity is officially called ‘dentin hypersensitivity’.
According to research, 1 out of every 7 people in the US has some level of sensitive teeth.
Women experience sensitive teeth more often than men. The age range most commonly impacted is 20 – 50 years old, and the most common teeth to experience sensitivity are the ‘canine’ teeth and bicuspids (just ‘behind’ the canines before our molars).
In an effort to help you specifically address sensitive teeth (and not mistake dentin hypersensitivity for other types of dental pain), let’s unwrap this common issue.
Tooth sensitivity is a sharp, sudden pain in response to an external stimulus, that normally passes quickly. In fact, 75% of people who experience sensitive teeth have it from exposure to cold foods/drinks.
Common triggers for sensitive teeth:
- very cold (frozen) foods/drinks
- cold foods/drinks
- hot/warm foods/drinks
- acidic foods/drinks (sweet is acidic)
- carbonated drinks (carbonic acid + sweet + cold)
- exposure to cold air
- mechanical stimulation (dental explorer or even toothbrush)
Here’s the path as we see it to helping you stop the pain of sensitive teeth.
Identify your triggers
A big first step is to identify and become consciously aware of what triggers cause you to experience pain. It takes conscious effort, as we’re kind of hardwired to avoid pain. So, to intentionally place our attention on pain takes focus and some courage.
Also, while you’re focused on noticing what exactly causes you pain, give your worst trigger (probably cold drinks) a rank from 1-10 and notice which teeth (or general region like ‘top left’) are most impacted. This will help you to determine that you’re heading in the right direction as you apply the strategies below to get rid of the pain of sensitive teeth for good.
If you really want to up your game, keep track of which teeth hurt and the 1-10 scale of how bad on this free download, the OraWellness Mouth Map.
Common causes of sensitive teeth
- gum recession
- enamel loss from acid dissolution
- commercial tooth whitening products or procedures
Hands down, the most common cause of sensitive teeth is due to exposed roots associated with receding gums.
Here’s how it happens…
Gum recession causes the roots of our teeth to become exposed.
Unlike enamel, the surface of our roots is covered with cementum, which is almost as hard as enamel, but not quite. Once the roots are exposed, these teeth may become more prone to the pain associated with sensitive teeth.
Brushing too hard
Next, unless we’ve learned to brush our teeth consciously, the abrasion from most toothpastes combined with a heavy hand while brushing causes excess wear on the exposed surface of our roots and our enamel.
It’s about here where someone wonders, “is baking soda safe to brush with?” because even alkalinizing compounds like baking soda can trigger the pain of tooth sensitivity.
Acidic foods and drinks
Another culprit that causes sensitive teeth is exposure to acidic foods and drinks.
You see, acids dissolve teeth. This is why we wrote the article, “How to drink kombucha and not destroy your teeth.”
It’s worth restating… acids dissolve teeth.
Regular exposure to acidic foods and drinks softens the outermost enamel (or, on our roots, the cementum). Yes, sauerkraut and other lacto-fermented foods are good for our digestive health. Here are some strategies for how to help mitigate the risks of compromising your teeth while enjoying your acidic foods.
To compound this loss of minerals from our teeth, many folks combine the above two points and brush (unconsciously) right after consuming something acidic. This is why we encourage that we wait at least 20 minutes after eating before brushing your teeth.
It’s a fact that we can literally brush away more minerals from our teeth when they have been softened due to acid dissolution. Over time, this cascades into greater loss of enamel and greater sensitivity.
Teeth whitening treatments
Special credit goes to commercial whitening (bleaching) treatments. It’s been clinically proven that exposure to the concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and other bleaching agents that are commonly used in both over-the-counter and dentist-applied teeth whitening procedures increases the porosity of our teeth and causes the most inner part of our teeth, the pulp chamber, to become inflamed. This inflammation is what causes the sensitive teeth feeling from whitening treatments.
If you’d like to learn strategies on how you can naturally bring back your pearly whites, we invite you to download our FREE eBook, How to Naturally Whiten Your Teeth (Without Destroying Your Enamel). You can also find articles we’ve written on natural teeth whitening steps here.
Strategies for how to stop sensitive teeth
So that’s what causes sensitive teeth. Now let’s explore how to unwind this situation and stop the pain…
Lessen the immediate pain
Nerves that get hyper-stimulated can get a sort of ‘PTSD’ and get stuck in a hyper-aware ‘on’ phase.
Providing them a little analgesic to let them mellow out can very often help begin the healing process. We have found great benefit from using our HealThy Mouth Blend to assist in cooling off any nerves that are overly jumpy.
Stop exposure to known triggers
It goes without saying that it’s wise to avoid the sensitive teeth triggers that you identify. Temporarily avoiding the cause will further help the nerves to mellow out and get back to the calm resting state where they generally belong.
However, in time, you’ll want to intentionally test your teeth to see if they are getting stronger and more resistant to the pain of sensitive teeth.
Avoid foods that reverse the dentinal fluid flow
The more we can encourage the healthy flow of the fluid in our teeth, the better we’ll be able to fend off any ‘invading’ influences, including external stimuli that cause tooth sensitivity.
If hearing that our teeth have a fluid flow in them is news to you, be sure to check out our article, ‘Why teeth decay (and how to stop it)’ to learn about this important piece to the puzzle.
Stop causing more receding gums
We’ll cover below how brushing too hard is a major contributor to sensitive teeth.
Suffice it to say, if you have receding gums, please go read this article so you can learn how to stop causing more gum recession: “What causes receding gums and how to stop it.”
Learn to brush gently
Like we have said since the very first video tutorial we made, each of us learned to brush our teeth when we were toddlers. Yet, very few of us ever circle back to see if we can upgrade and improve our brushing technique.
One simple way to determine if you are using too heavy of a hand when brushing your teeth is to notice how you hold your toothbrush.
If you have the brush handle in a ‘full fist’, you’re probably brushing like a toddler and are using your toothbrush like a scrub brush to clean the grout line in your shower (I’m sorry for the tough love, but it’s that important). If, on the other hand, you’re holding the brush with your fingertips, you’re naturally going to be using more fine motor skills, and therefore, you’ll be brushing much more gently.
So, the next time you’re brushing, just notice how you’re holding your toothbrush. It will tell you a lot.
Incidentally, this is why our not-so-fancy-but-effective Bass toothbrushes have a shorter handle. It’s more difficult to grasp the handle with a full fist. The design of the brush handle encourages you to hold it with your fingertips, which leads to a lighter hand while brushing.
Support the tooth structure
Ok, we’ve helped to unwind frazzled nerves, stopped the triggers, and made sure that we aren’t causing the problem by brushing too hard. Now it’s time to support our teeth to make them stronger, denser and more resilient to the external triggers that cause sensitive teeth.
Helping our teeth to be healthy and strong is a big subject. For this article, we’re going to bring a couple strategies to light. For a deeper dive into this subject, we encourage you to download our free eBook, How to Stop Tooth Decay and Remineralize Your Teeth.
We can support our teeth to help them become stronger and more resistant to tooth decay (and sensitivity). Our bodies have amazing natural mechanisms to accomplish this. But we have to help give our bodies the right conditions to accomplish this healing.
Support from the ‘global’ (whole-body) angle
We mentioned above the idea of avoiding foods that cause our dentinal fluid flow to reverse. In addition to avoiding foods that cause our remineralization mechanisms to break down, we can also provide our systems with foods that nurture our natural repair mechanisms.
While there are many components that are required to live a healthy life, one thing that is very important for oral health is that we make certain we have sufficient vitamin K2 in our diet. Without sufficient K2, it’s nearly impossible for the body to repair our teeth.
Here are some helpful resources for understanding more on vitamin K2:
If you want to learn more about K2, check out our friend Sarah Pope’s excellent article, “The Latest Research on the Benefits of Vitamin K2”.
Support from the ‘local’ (in the mouth) angle
Demineralization and remineralization are happening all the time in our mouths. It’s as constant as the ebb and flow of the tides. It’s our job to understand what causes these processes and to encourage remineralization while discouraging factors that cause demineralization.
That’s why we created OraWellness Shine, our remineralizing tooth whitening powder. Shine provides our teeth with the exact minerals, in the right particle size, in the right location where they need to be to support the remineralization mechanisms and innate wisdom that our bodies have been blessed with.
Over time, by emphasizing remineralization, we can reverse weakened teeth, and sensitive teeth can become a thing of the past. We have experienced it personally, and so have literally thousands of happy customers all around the world.
Here’s one customer testimonial that stands out for me:
“Ever since I started using OraWellness, I have yet to have another cavity when I go to the dentist.
My teeth are white, but more importantly they are healthy–I no longer have that stinging when drinking cold liquids.” Karolena S, Texas
You can read more customer testimonials about how the pain from sensitive teeth has lessened and even disappeared here.
Takeaway gems to stop sensitive teeth for good
You can be free from the pain of sensitive teeth. It’s totally possible and in your control.
Here are the steps:
- Identify what specific triggers cause the pain
- Make sure you’re dealing with dentin hypersensitivity and not some other issue
- Help frazzled nerves to chill out (We use this.)
- Stop exposure to the trigger(s) (for now)
- Make sure you’re brushing consciously
- Support the health of your teeth from the inside
- Support the remineralization process in the mouth
- Retest for reduced sensitivity
- Give yourself a pat on the back! You did it!
Have you found strategies that you’ve successfully applied to stop and reverse the pain of sensitive teeth? Please share your experience in the comments below. It’s so powerful when we can learn from each other’s experiences. Truly, it quickens our healing process many times over.
Helpful, Related Resources:
OraWellness Mouth Map [free download]
What causes receding gums and how to stop it [article]
What’s the safest and most effective abrasive for naturally whiter teeth? [article]
Is baking soda safe to brush with? [article]
How to drink kombucha and NOT destroy your teeth [article]
Can brushing after a meal damage my teeth? [article]
How to Naturally Whiten Your Teeth (Without Destroying Your Enamel) [Free eBook]
How to balance your oral flora [article]
Why teeth decay (and how to stop it) [article]
How to Stop Tooth Decay and Remineralize Your Teeth [Free eBook]
What’s the best K2 supplement on the market? [market analysis]
The Latest Research on the Benefits of Vitamin K2 by Sarah Pope [article]
Scientific literature referenced in this article: