Everyone among us must have experienced a sharp stinging feeling of discomfort while eating an ice-cream or drinking a hot beverage. And let’s admit it, nobody likes to go through that all over again.

So what is that stinging feeling that you get and why does it happen?

Sensitivity in the teeth may indicate an underlying dental problem. Most commonly it occurs when there is a breach in the protective layer of the tooth, i.e., the enamel or in case of exposed tooth roots.

Often sensitivity of the tooth once detected can be treated at home as well. But if it is severe and lasts for a longer time, consultation from the dentist becomes necessary to identify the cause and relieve it.

Many factors contribute to having sensitive teeth. Use of wrong oral health products or certain dietary habits can lead to wearing away of enamel and exposing the sensitive layer of the tooth, i.e., the dentin.

Let’s read further to understand some easy ways to prevent tooth sensitivity naturally.

What is the sensitivity of tooth?

Tooth sensitivity, clinically known as dentinal hypersensitivity, is described as a sharp shooting pain that occurs for a short time and relieves when the stimulant is removed.

It is caused due to thinning or depletion of the outermost layer of the tooth called the enamel.

Enamel is the mineralized layer of the tooth that acts as a protective barrier against oral bacteria, acid attack, and change in temperatures.

When there is a breach in the layer of enamel, it exposes the underlying sensitive layer of the tooth called the dentin.

This layer adds on to the pain and discomfort that the patient experience while eating too cold or too hot food substances. Such a process is also called as dentinal hypersensitivity. (1)

What causes sensitivity of tooth?

Many factors can cause tooth sensitivity.

How does it happen?

When a tooth root gets exposed or when the layer of enamel is abraded, it exposes the layer of dentin which comes in direct contact with the oral cavity.

The layer of dentin consists of numerous dentinal tubules that regulate the fluid flow to and from the pulpal tissue.

Any change in the oral temperature, pressure or certain oral habits causes a shift in this fluid flow that leads to the symptoms of sensitivity.

How can you detect it?

Usually, tooth sensitivity is self-diagnosable. A sharp shooting pain that starts taking cold or hot food, while brushing or while chewing food and is relieved when the activity is stopped indicates a sensitive tooth.

A study shows that out of a group of 380 patients, 158 were able to self-diagnose their sensitivity. (2)

At times, when you are in doubt or the pain is unbearable, a dentist will help to diagnose the condition and detect the cause.

Easy ways to prevent sensitivity of the tooth

1. Use of a desensitizing toothpaste

A desensitizing toothpaste consists of certain minerals like potassium nitrate and strontium chloride that plug into the dentinal tubules and relieve tooth sensitivity.

Although it takes a minimum of two weeks for a desensitizing toothpaste to work well, their action is long lasting.

Desensitizing toothpaste is the most popularly used oral health product for tooth sensitivity. (3)

2. Change your mouthwash

An addition to the desensitizing toothpaste is the use of fluoride rinse. Fluoride rinse consists of fluorides and nitrates that help in providing extra minerals for blocking the dentinal tubules and relieving sensitivity.

A fluoride rinse can be used once a day. An experimental study showed that an addition of 3% potassium nitrate in mouth rinses aids in relieving tooth sensitivity. (4)

3. Maintain oral hygiene

Dental plaque is a home for oral bacteria to accumulate and initiate the process of tooth decay by converting sugars from the food into acids.

These acids produced by the bacteria attacks the tooth surface and demineralizes the enamel. It is essential to maintain good oral hygiene and to remove the plaque by brushing at least two times a day. 

4. Modify brushing technique

Aggressive tooth brushing habit can abrade the enamel of the tooth and lead to tooth sensitivity. Most of the people have a habit of brushing in a horizontal motion. This is the most dangerous technique that easily breaks the enamel.

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, gently in circular motion on all the surfaces of the teeth. Floss once in a day to keep the interdental areas clean.

5. Change your oral habits

A habit of chewing tobacco not only affects the oral tissues contributing to oral cancer but also causes receding gums. As a result, the tooth root gets exposed and becomes the cause of tooth sensitivity.

It is advised to quit any habit of taking tobacco to maintain healthy oral tissues, prevent oral cancer and in minor cases tooth sensitivity.

6. Say no to acidic food products

Carbonated drinks, alcohol, coffee, and even yogurt have shown to cause sensitivity of the tooth. These products may not affect the tooth directly, but they act as a catalyst to abrade and deplete the layer of enamel.

Minimizing the habit of eating such acidic food products will help you to maintain healthy oral hygiene.

7. Use a protective mouth guard

A habit of unconscious grinding the teeth, clinically known as bruxism, puts a lot of force on the tooth and abrades the enamel. For such cases, a protective bite guard or a mouth guard can come in handy.

A mouth guard takes away the occlusal load and prevents the teeth from abrading the enamel.

When should you consult a dentist?

While tooth sensitivity can be controlled at home, it is wise to consult a dentist for the following symptoms:

  • Persistent sensitivity or a toothache, sometimes it may indicate an infection of the pulpal tissue
  • Change in the color of gums or any signs of swelling or inflammation
  • No relief even after using a desensitizing toothpaste

Take away message

Whatever may be the cause of tooth sensitivity, it can be detected at home and can be prevented by following simple routine habits.

Now that you know the different ways to detect and prevent tooth sensitivity, it is time to take the initiative in following the mentioned tips to stay healthy and pain-free.

These natural remedies will not only help you relieve the pain but also help you to treat the cause of sensitivity. In addition to providing you with an excellent oral environment, these tips will also help to improve the quality of life.

Consult a dentist whenever in doubt and ask them to recommend a proper oral hygiene regime to follow regularly.

You can prevent tooth sensitivity by using desensitizing toothpaste, mouth rinse, mouth guard and following good oral hygiene.