A bright, healthy smile can make a big difference in how people perceive you. After all, the first thing they see is your face. A set of shiny pearly whites leaves a big first impression on everyone you meet.
But getting that bright white smile all too often requires tooth whitening products. All too often, these products can cause discomfort and sensitivity.
The good news is that tooth sensitivity is common, and it doesn’t just affect people who use whitening products. It can affect other people too, including those who don’t practice proper oral hygiene. The bad news is that if you don’t do something about it, it can become a constant, unpleasant presence in your everyday life.
We’re about to provide some basic tips on soothing your teeth. Some of these are simple best practices, and others are products you can use. But before we start out, let’s point out the obvious: if you’re in serious discomfort, visit your dentist. Home remedies are fine for some types of sensitivity. But if you end up leaving a cavity alone for too long, you’ll be in worse shape in the long run.
Now, let’s talk about tooth sensitivity, and how to manage it!
What are the Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity?
The term “tooth sensitivity” might sound self-explanatory. Your teeth are more sensitive than normal, right? Yes and no. In fact, tooth sensitivity symptoms can be different for different people. Here are some of the ways it can manifest. Keep in mind that some people only experience a couple of symptoms, while others experience all of them.
- Tooth pain when eating hard or crunchy foods
- Tooth pain when eating acidic or sour foods
- Tooth pain from temperature changes (i.e. when drinking hot coffee or cold lemonade)
- Sudden, shooting pain for no apparent reason. This pain can be localized to the tooth itself, or can extend all the way into the jaw depending on the severity.
As you can see, the pain can vary in severity, and it can have different immediate causes. The one common feature is pain.
However, keep in mind that your body experiences pain for a reason; something is wrong! When left unaddressed, the underlying causes of tooth sensitivity can increase your risk of cavities and other damage.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity After Whitening?
The main culprit in sensitivity from tooth whitening is bleach. When you think about it, this makes sense. Bleach makes everything white, so what better ingredient to include in a tooth whitener? On the other hand, bleach is also corrosive.
That said, there are some tooth whitening kits that don’t rely on bleach. Dr. Brite whitening kits use ingredients like organic oils, calcium, and vitamin C to restore your teeth’s wide appearance. This all-natural formulation reduces the risk of damage due to man-made bleaches.
Regardless, if your teeth are sensitive after whitening, bleaching is almost certainly to blame. This isn’t just a just a sign that the bleach is causing irritation. It means that your teeth’s enamel may be at risk.
The reason for this is that bleach can actually cause physical damage to your tooth enamel. Over repeated bleach treatments, small holes and pockets start to form in the enamel. These pockets and holes are perfect harbors for bacteria, and can even turn into cavities.
Worse, bleach can sometimes form tunnels called “microtubules.” These are tiny, capillary-like channels that can lead all the way to the root of your tooth. In extreme cases, an apparently-healthy tooth can develop a sudden root infection and need to be pulled.
What Else Can Cause Tooth Sensitivity?
We’ve talked a lot about tooth whitening, and how it can cause tooth sensitivity. There are also other potential causes. Almost all of them, however, mean that your teeth are at risk. When in doubt, consult with your dentist!
- Cavities are a major culprit, especially if your oral hygiene isn’t up to snuff. Generally, cavities are more sensitive to temperature changes than other types of sensitive tooth.
- Gum disease or gum recession. Both of these conditions can cause the gums to pull back, exposing the roots of your teeth.
- Worn fillings can also cause sensitivity. Because even the best fillings wear out faster than natural tooth enamel, this pain is often localized to a single tooth or part of a tooth.
- Overzealous brushing. Yes, that’s right. Brushing your teeth too hard can actually be a bad thing! A light to moderate touch is more than enough to keep them clean, without damaging the enamel.
How to Relieve Tooth Sensitivity
So far, tooth sensitivity might sound terrifying. But there’s good news! If you eliminate the cause of the damage and eat a healthy diet, your teeth can actually repair themselves over time by replacing depleted minerals. As this happens, the sensitivity should also disappear.
So, what do you do in the meantime? Here are a few ways to reduce the immediate causes of tooth sensitivity. None of them is a “cure” for the underlying cause. They’re simply steps that are meant to soothe your teeth in the meantime, or prevent irritating them in the first place.
Avoid Chewing on Hard Foods
The main rule of relieving tooth sensitivity is doing no harm. Think about what triggers tooth pain, and avoid doing that thing. One common cause is chewing on hard foods like nuts, chips, and ice chips. In addition to causing discomfort, these foods can also wear down already-damaged enamel.
Regardless of whether you experience pain immediately after brushing, try to brush more carefully. To begin with, you may already be brushing too hard. Moreover, if your enamel is already damaged, even moderate brushing can cause further wear.
In addition, avoid brushes that are designed to reach between your teeth. These areas aren’t designed to handle a lot of abrasion. Instead, use floss to clean between your teeth.
Avoid Citruses and Other Acidic Foods
We already mentioned that citruses and other acidic foods can cause food sensitivity. This is because they can wear down your tooth enamel. Once damage has occurred, acid can work its way into pockets and microtubules, widening them out and making the damage worse.
This isn’t a permanent proscription to never eat citrus or tomato again. In fact, citruses are rich in Vitamin C, which is important for good tooth health! But it’s best to lay off them for a while and allow your teeth to heal. This is one area where your dentist can be extremely helpful, since they can let you know when and how much citrus it’s safe to resume eating.
Use a Sensitivity Relief Pen, Toothpaste, or Gel
If you’re still experiencing discomfort, there are plenty of gels, pens, and even toothpastes that are designed for sensitivity relief. If you want to ensure that you’re using something that won’t damage your teeth further, consider a Dr. Brite toothpaste or pen. Dr. Brite uses only natural ingredients, so you don’t have to worry about artificial ingredients damaging your teeth. They’re also Paraben-free for your health.
Don’t Forget to Visit Your Dentist!
As we said, some causes of tooth sensitivity can be serious. Make sure you’re communicating with your dentist, and keeping up with your twice-yearly dental appointments.
And remember, none of the methods we talked about are “cures.” They’re just ways to avoid irritating your teeth or soothe them when they’re irritated. For example, if you already have a cavity, no amount of sensitivity relief gel is going to make it better. You need to see a dentist and have it taken care of.