When you go to your dentist with a tooth sensitivity problem, your dentist will want to examine your teeth to see if there's an underlying cause or a bigger problem, such as decay or gum disease, causing the sensitivity. But in addition to addressing any additional problems, your dentist will also want to help you resolve the painful sensitivity by helping your enamel recover.
Here are three treatments your dentist may recommend.
1. Use a Prescription Paste
Some types of toothpaste have formulas specifically designed to help strengthen and bolster your tooth enamel and block the tiny passageways in tooth surfaces that can allow sensitivity reactions to occur. You can buy toothpastes formulated for sensitive teeth without a prescription, but if these toothpastes don't solve your problem, you may need something stronger.
Prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste or MI paste (another prescription product) can help inure your teeth to sensitivity triggers. Because these products require a prescription, you won't get them without your dentist's help. That's why you should go straight to your dentist when you start having tooth sensitivity problems.
2. Form Enamel-Friendly Eating Habits
If your teeth are becoming sensitive to hot or cold foods, you may be instinctively avoiding those foods now. However, your dentist may recommend a couple of additional changes to your eating habits to help your teeth recover.
Highly acidic foods can erode enamel, and so can the acids produced in your mouth after you eat sugary foods or carbohydrates. Rinsing your mouth out with water after eating can help minimize further damage. Brushing might seem like the obvious choice, but the Mayo Clinic says to brush before eating or 30 minutes after rather than directly after the meal.
Another habit to develop is eating only at meals, avoiding frequent snacks. This practice reduces the number of times your teeth are exposed to acids. These tips won't heal enamel damage on their own, but they can form a useful home treatment to supplement a prescription toothpaste.
3. Chew Gum After Meals
Chewing xylitol-containing gum after meals could help your teeth in two ways. First, chewing gum can increase saliva production, which helps to wash away food particles and carry much-needed minerals to replenish your enamel surfaces. Second, xylitol may make it harder for acid-producing bacteria to hang onto your teeth and attack them.
Gum is another supplemental home treatment that focuses on letting your teeth recover by staving off attacks, rather than directly repairing the enamel damage. This option is best used in addition to whatever your dentist prescribes. Remember, home treatments aren't a substitute for prescribed treatments.
Consult with your doctor and dentist about whether chewing xylitol gum could interact with any current medications or affect current conditions (for example, gum could be counterproductive if you have TMD). However, xylitol is a popular sugar substitute and isn't generally considered a medication, so you can get this type of gum without a prescription.
These three potential treatments can all be used in conjunction with one another, and your dentist may recommend other treatments as well. If your dentist suspects that your sensitivity is caused by tooth grinding at night, for example, you may need to use a mouthguard at night.
Before you go to your appointment to talk to your dentist, you might also want to think back through the past few months. If you have increased stress and find yourself clenching your teeth a lot, mention it to your dentist. You could be grinding your teeth at night without realizing it.
Other possible causes of sensitivity include too-harsh brushing, recent tooth whitening, gum recession caused by gingivitis, or a problem with one of your fillings. Mention any of these you suspect might be a problem to your dentist at your appointment. If you live in the Indianapolis area, call Steckbeck Family Dentistry to request an appointment and we'll be glad to help you.