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Wellness Wednesday: dealing with tooth sensitivity

Posted at 8:46 AM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 10:46:18-04

IDAHO — Summer means getting outside, enjoying the warm weather, and cooling down with a cold treat, but for some, that can be painful because of tooth sensitivity.

Dr. Andrea Brown from Castlebury Dental says a lot of people may be noticing that discomfort or numbness in their teeth, especially now, as they eat ice cream or popsicles during the summer months.

"Iced coffees, when you bite into cold food, even hot things can cause this as well, but a lot of people are eating ice cream this summer," says Dr. Brown.

That sensitivity can be caused by several factors affecting the enamel, or hard outer shell, of your tooth.

"If that is wearing down, breaking down, or becoming thinner, then that coldness can reach that nerve much quicker and much more easily. Things that cause our enamel to be thinner or broken down are things like grinding your teeth at night, consuming acidic foods. Also, just poor dental hygiene can cause that," explains Dr. Brown. "It's a symptom, really, of just a larger issue going on. Sometimes you might have a cavity."

Luckily, if your teeth are feeling a little sensitive, there are treatments to address the issue.

"Treatments to address it or prevent it can be something like a night guard to prevent that breaking down of the enamel, but if you already have that enamel broken down, there are things to address it or to help make that enamel stronger. Things like desensitizing toothpaste, fluoride gels which your dentist or hygienist can put on in-office typically," Dr. Brown adds. "Other things like crowns, inlays, bondings if there's that bigger issue going on, maybe a cavity or wearing down fillings, then those types of things can be done in office."

Sometimes dentists will need to take the extreme route and perform a root canal. That would only be recommended if the pain is severe and persistent. Failing to treat the root cause of tooth sensitivity, which could be a cavity or gum disease, could lead to an infection with the risk of spreading to areas of the head and neck.

Dr. Brown says the possibility of developing tooth sensitivity doesn't mean we have to cut out our favorite hot or cold treats altogether. She says the biggest key to avoiding tooth sensitivity is practicing good daily oral hygiene which includes brushing your teeth twice per day, flossing, and drinking lots of water.

If you're feeling any type of sensitivity or if you have more questions, have a conversation with your dentist or click here to find out more.