Is ice cream your tooth’s nemesis?
Is there ‘no soup for you’?
Or does even a cool spring breeze put your teeth on edge?
If you said ‘yes’ to any (or all!) of these, then you might be suffering from sensitive teeth.
Don’t worry. You are not alone. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, an estimated 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from sensitive teeth.
Sensitive teeth can manifest in different ways. It can be temporary or chronic. It can affect just one tooth or all your teeth. Whatever way it shows up though, we can all agree that sensitive teeth are no fun.
Today, we’re going to talk about some quick and easy at-home fixes to give you a bit of relief!
First though, let’s talk about why you get sensitive teeth. Knowing the underlying causes can help you treat and ultimately prevent sensitive teeth in the future.
Your teeth are just worn out. Or rather, your enamel is worn out. We are born with a finite amount of enamel, so when it wears down over time, that’s it. When the enamel thins, the dental roots are exposed leading to pain and discomfort. Some people are unfortunately born with thinner enamel than others, so they naturally have more sensitive teeth. However, enamel can also be worn down by teeth grinding, acidic foods or beverages, using a hard-bristled toothbrush, or brushing your teeth too hard.
Another oral issue at play. Cavities, cracked or chipped teeth, worn fillings, gum recession and gum disease can all contribute to tooth sensitivity.
Other medical issues. Medical conditions that are associated with frequent acid reflux or vomiting such as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), bulimia, or gastroparesis can wear down enamel over time.
Temporary inconveniences. There are some temporary causes for dental sensitivity such as recent dental work like getting fillings, putting on crowns, or teeth bleaching. Usually this inconvenience will subside within a few days.
Now that we’ve given you a bit of an idea as to why your teeth might be sensitive, let’s talk about 12 remedies you can use right now, at home, to alleviate this issue.
12 AT-HOME REMEDIES
1) Food for thought. As frustrating as it is, there are A LOT of triggers for sensitive teeth. Food and drinks that are too hot, too cold, too sweet, and too acidic may set off a chain reaction of pain. The easiest way to deal with it? Do your very best to avoid these foods and beverages.
2) Time to break out the straws. All that said, if you have an irresistible hankering for a milkshake, a straw can do wonders for safeguarding your teeth from the brunt of the cold impact.
3) Get a little salty…. Salt+water is great for oral health and sensitive teeth are no exception. Add about ¾ of a teaspoon to warm water, mix well, and gargle away! Not only is salt an antiseptic, but it can help reduce inflammation.
4)…..and a little bit spicy….Capsaicin is the compound in many hot peppers that give them their ‘kick’. It is an analgesic AND has been shown to help with inflammation. Love hot sauce? Now is the time to put a little extra on. You can also apply capsaicin directly to your teeth or mix with water. Word to the wise…it might burn a bit at first, but the feeling will fade.
5)…and just a little bit sweet… Yes, we said sweet can cause tooth pain. However, both honey and vanilla extract have been shown to be effective antiseptics and pain relievers. They actually taste good too. For the vanilla extract, you can apply directly on the teeth and gums. For honey, just mix a spoonful with warm water and swish around. The best part of the honey concoction is that you can swallow it after. Yum!
6)…and maybe a little bit Indian? Turmeric, the spice frequently used in Indian food and in Ayurvedic healing contains a compound called curcumin, which has been shown in several studies to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can help with sensitive teeth. As an added benefit, for anyone suffering from acid reflux contributing to sensitive teeth, there is some evidence that turmeric might relieve the symptoms of that as well. Either mix the turmeric in with your food, have it as a tea, or put it directly on the teeth. Want to go the extra mile? Make a paste with 1 part turmeric, ½ part salt and ½ part mustard oil and apply the paste to your teeth twice a day.
7) Speaking of mixtures…Try good ol’ hydrogen peroxide. It’s disinfectant and anti-inflammatory properties make it good for everything from scrapes to sensitive teeth. The bonus is that it also can kill off the nasty bacteria that has accumulated in your mouth. Mix equal parts 3% hydrogen peroxide and water, swish around in your mouth, and you should be feeling better in no time.
8) Tried and true cup of tea. Green tea has long been lauded for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Just make sure you don’t make it too hot!
9) Alcohol-free is the way to be. At least when it comes to mouthwash….and maybe wine. Alcohol-based mouthwashes can also set off the worst symptoms of sensitive teeth. So make sure you read the ingredients on the label before you buy the mouthwash. Wine is acidic and can erode enamel.
10) Water really does make it better. Love your acidic or sweet foods...or your wine? Eat (or drink) and then rinse immediately afterward with water. You’ll get some of the pain-causing agents out of your mouth before they can do too much damage.
11) The gentler, the better. As we showed in our recent article, soft bristles on your toothbrush are better for many reasons...particularly if you’ve got sensitive teeth! It’s important you choose a soft-bristle toothbrush to avoid further damage to your enamel. Plus, it’ll feel better on your teeth.
12) When in doubt, stick to the basics. Yes, many of us have got a little lax during quarantine with the oral care regimens, but it is so important to brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day for a full two minutes each time with gentle strokes, floss once a day, and check in with your dentist twice a year. Lapses in proper oral care are a big contributor to sensitive teeth. So take good care of them. They’re the only ones you’ll get. Need help? Don’t forget, we’ve got great soft-bristle brushes and silky floss for the most sensitive teeth out there.
Some advice before we leave you: if your sensitive teeth become unbearable, talk to your dentist. There are options such as mouthguards, prescription toothpastes and mouthwashes, bonding resin, surgical gum grafts, and even root canals that can greatly reduce pain. They may not be pleasant in the moment, but in the long run your mouth will thank you.