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What's Up Magazine

When Sensitivity Isn't a Good Thing

Oct 02, 2013 10:05AM ● By Cate Reynolds
“I scream. You scream. We all scream when we eat ice cream. Rah, rah, rah!”
Slightly altered lyrics, but anyone with tooth sensitivity will not object.

Unfortunately, a wonderfully restoring sip of piping hot coffee in the morning can have the same painful effect as eating a snow cone. The discomfort you are feeling is an indication that the dentin in your teeth is exposed. When the dentin loses its protective covering, heat, cold, and acidic or sticky foods stimulate the nerves and cells inside the tooth, causing hypersensitivity and discomfort.


• Grinding or clenching your teeth
• Drinking acidic beverages such as soda or lemonade, which can erode enamel
• Using a hard-bristled toothbrush or brushing with a heavy hand
• Receding gum line, which exposes the root surfaces of teeth
• Cavities or fractured or cracked teeth
• Teeth-whitening products
• Plaque buildup


Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing the pain associated with sensitive teeth and receding gums. Follow proper brushing and flossing techniques to thoroughly clean all parts of your teeth and mouth. To treat tooth sensitivity, start by visiting your dentist. He or she can identify or rule out any underlying causes.

Your dentist might recommend a fix as easy as using desensitizing toothpaste and switching to an electric toothbrush. He/she might also apply fluoride to the sensitive areas of your teeth to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce pain. Mouth guards are another effective treatment for those affected by teeth-grinding.

If receding gums are the cause of your sensitive teeth, your dentist might apply a sealant to cover the exposed tooth roots. If the pain is severe and other treatments have failed, your dentist may recommend a root canal.

But prevention is your best route. Brush gently twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a good, non-abrasive fluoride toothpaste. Floss daily. And watch what you eat and drink. According to the Mayo Clinic, acidic food and drink such as carbonated beverages, citrus fruits, wine, and yogurt all remove tooth enamel. They recommend using a straw when drinking acid beverages. And they do not advise brushing right after you have ingested acidic substances since acid softens enamel and makes it more vulnerable to erosion during brushing. --S.H.

What’s Up? does not give medical advice. This material is simply a discussion of current information, trends, and topics. Please seek the advice of a physician before making any changes to your lifestyle or routine.