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Does a sip of your morning coffee or a bite of your favorite ice cream cause pain in your teeth? Or, maybe when you brush or floss, do you notice that some teeth experience more sensitivity than others?

Don’t ignore this sensation in your mouth. Here are some reasons why you may be experiencing sensitive teeth and some ways to help ease some of the pain.

Reason #1: There’s too much acid in your diet

If you have sensitive teeth that have exposed nerve pathways, yet you continue to indulge in tomato sauce, pickles, fresh grapefruit, and oranges, or other highly acidic foods on a regular basis, you could be making your sensitive teeth worse. Decrease your intake of acidic foods and see if you notice a difference.

Reason #2: You’re brushing your teeth too hard

This is a very common reason why people have sensitive teeth: they brush with too much force. If you brush too hard for too long, you can slowly begin wearing down the protective layers of your teeth, which means that they are at risk for nerve exposure. If they are exposed for a long time, you will likely experience sensitivity in your teeth on a regular basis. To combat this, make a concentrated effort to brush gently, and switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush.

Reason #3: You grind your teeth

If you grind your teeth while you sleep at night, you will likely wear down the enamel in your teeth over time. This will expose the dentin (one of four types of dental tissues), which can lead to nerve exposure. Your dentist can make you a mouth guard that is custom fit to your mouth, and this can significantly help you stop grinding your teeth.

Reason #4: You’re using mouthwash too much

Mouthwash is a great product, but it should be used in moderation. Many times, these mouthwashes contain high amounts of alcohol and chemicals that can actually contribute to tooth sensitivity. Instead, try a neutral fluoride rinse or stop using the mouthwash altogether.

Reason #5: You have gum disease

Do you have receding gums? This is often a result of aging, but it happens especially if you have not kept up with regular teeth cleanings, flossing, or dental check-ups. If you have gum disease or gingivitis, you may have sensitive teeth as well.

To help this, your dentist will likely create a plan of action to treat the gum disease and may suggest a procedure to seal the teeth and keep them protected.

Having sensitive teeth doesn’t have to dominate your everyday life! It’s usually treatable, often with simple changes to your oral healthcare routine. Start with switching your toothpaste to one that is made specifically for sensitive teeth. If this doesn’t work and the pain persists, no matter what you do, be sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist to determine the cause and the best solution.
Dr. Brad King D.M.D. P.C. is an accomplished dentist in Southeast Portland, OR, with a special interest in helping the senior community.

Dr. King is also an A.D.A. Member and a part of the Dental Research Study Club at Oregon Health & Science University Dental School.