Healthy Teeth Tips

Are your teeth sensitive? It could be your favorite drink!
If you ever experience sensitive teeth as you drink, the cause could be what’s right in your hand – a highly acidic drink. The acidity in drinks is a known cause of sensitive teeth. Acidic foods and drinks wear away at our enamel over time, causing the nerves and inner layers of the tooth to become exposed. What does this mean for how we consume acidic beverages? We can navigate this issue with a discussion around how to moderate acidic beverage intake, healthy alternatives, and other tips for making your teeth less sensitive overall.

At South Charlotte Dentistry, we hear from a broad range of patients who report experiencing some degree of tooth sensitivity – and they’re not alone! A recent survey from the University of Washington where 787 adults from various U.S. dental offices in the Midwest found that about one in eight people has sensitive teeth. In the study, dentists asked if their patients experienced any pain or sensitivity in their teeth or gums and then proceeded to examine their teeth to ensure the pain was not due to another oral health problem like a cavity, chipped tooth, or swollen gums.
Previous studies have reported that at a typical dental practice, anywhere from 1% to 52% of patients have sensitive teeth. If you’re experiencing teeth sensitivity, give your dentist at South Charlotte Dentistry a call today or make a plan to discuss it at your next visit! Teeth sensitivity doesn’t have to be an issue you just deal with – we have treatment options and personalized plans we can offer to those experiencing teeth sensitivity.


What causes tooth sensitivity?
In the simplest answer, the cause of tooth sensitivity is due to the loss of the protective covering around a tooth’s dentin, which is also known as the material that composes most of the inside of your tooth. Your dentin is protected by enamel (the outer covering of your tooth), cementum (a calcified substance that covers and protects the root under the gum lines), and your gums (which also protect the roots of your teeth). When these protective layers erode, things like extreme hot or cold, or acidity can penetrate the nerves of the tooth, resulting in sharp pain, throbbing pain, or overall sensitivity.

Anything from brushing your teeth too roughly, teeth grinding, gum disease, whitening products, or a high sugar or acidic diet can contribute to teeth sensitivity.


Who experiences tooth sensitivity, and are we genetically predisposed to experience it?
Everyone can experience teeth sensitivity, whether you’re a child or an adult! The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that as many as 40 million adults in the U.S. experience tooth sensitivity!

The condition of teeth sensitivity isn’t necessarily a life sentence; your teeth’ health can fluctuate over time, and your habits can influence whether or not you’re having teeth sensitivity. Teeth sensitivity is more often experienced by adults aged 18-44 – and they’re nearly 3.5 times more likely than the rest of the population! Dentists suspect this is because dentin gets thicker over time, providing more insulation and a decreased risk of sensitivity to older adults.

When it comes to the question of whether or not we can be genetically predisposed to teeth sensitivity, it’s unclear! There are numerous, difficult-to-measure variables that factor into if someone might experience teeth sensitivity. Teeth sensitivity has been reported universally, but since our food and drink are tied so closely to our unique culture, certain people could be more at risk depending on their diet and habits. For example, cultures that regularly consume wine or alcohol may experience higher rates of teeth sensitivity.

Women were also found to be 1.8 times more likely than men to experience teeth sensitivity, but researchers noted this may be because women are more likely overall to report feeling pain. In addition, according to the American Dental Association, female hormones can cause greater blood flow to the gums, which can cause their teeth to be more sensitive.


Acidic Drinks and Teeth Sensitivity
Pour a coke on the hood of a car every day for a year and you will erode the paint. Now imagine what those acidic drinks are doing to your tooth enamel over time. Acidic drinks, like soda, tea, and coffee are kryptonite to your tooth enamel.
If you find yourself passing on hot or cold drinks because you know they make your teeth hurt, it may be time to talk to your dentist at South Charlotte Dentistry.


Why are certain drinks bad for your teeth?
Well, if what you’re drinking contains citrus or citrus flavor, carbonated, or sour, it’s probably best to limit your consumption. Acid and carbonation in beverages are major culprits of teeth erosion. Soft drinks are especially bad since they are sugary, carbonated, and acidic!
A refreshing glass of fresh squeezed lemonade is going to contain higher levels of acid than regular water. Make freshly squeezed citrus juices like orange juice an occasional treat, rather than a daily habit.


What drinks are acidic and/or what drinks should be avoided?
· Coffee
· Tea
· Kombucha
· Carbonated drinks
· Alcohol
· Juice
· Sports drinks
· Soda and soft drinks


Sugar-free soft drinks: are they better for my teeth?
Even though sugar doesn’t contain acidity, sugar can promote the growth of acid-creating bacteria in your mouth. Sugar-free drinks still contain carbonation and acid, but lowering sugar consumption is always


What are the most acidic juices?
The most acidic fruit juices include lemon, cranberry, orange, and apple.


Sparkling water: is the carbonation negatively impacting your teeth?
Even when drinks are sugar free, they’re more likely to be acidic due to carbonation. The bright and bubbly fizz that might make sparkling water more appealing, in addition to natural flavoring from lemon or lime, raises the acid level of your drink. A great alternative to sparkling water is coconut water.


What’s the best tea and coffee for those worried about acidity levels?
Green and black tea are better options for your teeth. Iced coffee with a straw can be a good option to limit the time acidic coffee is in your mouth.


Tips to protect your teeth from acidic drinks
Realistically, you probably can’t or don’t want to entirely avoid acidic drinks! There are best practices and ways to lower the amount of damage that acidic drinks can do to your teeth.
1. Moderate your intake of acidic beverages.
Before the iced coffee addicts come for us, we’re not suggesting that you cut out acidic drinks entirely! While any acidic drinks will cause tooth erosion over time and completely cutting them out is the only way to avoid adverse effects, there are still ways to lower the amount of damage – the main being consuming fewer acidic beverages.

2. Use a straw!
If you do indulge in an acidic beverage, use a straw. If you’re worried about the use of straws and their impact on the environment, seek out reusable options like metal or bamboo straws. Don’t swish or allow acidic drinks to sit in your mouth longer than needed – just sip and swallow.

3. Drink water immediately after consuming acidic food or drink.

4. Avoid brushing your teeth for at least 10 to 15 minutes after consuming acidic food or drink.
If possible, try to wait an hour before brushing your teeth after any acidic consumption. Brushing your teeth too soon may increase enamel erosion.

5. Supplement your diet with pro-teeth health snacks like fiber rich fruits and vegetables, cheese, and yogurt.
Avoid citrus fruits if you’re experiencing sensitivity, and avoid foods high in sugar. Drinking milk or having a cheese snack after consuming something acidic can help neutralize acids in the mouth.

6. Keep saliva flowing – chew gum!
Saliva keeps acids under control. You can increase saliva flow and help protect your teeth by chewing sugar-free gum.

7. Cut down the use of whitening products.
Tooth-whitening products are very common culprits of tooth sensitivity. Whitening chemicals are really tough on tooth enamel and can wear it down over time. You may find that by switching from a whitening toothpaste to a sensitivity toothpaste that your teeth sensitivity lessens.

8. Consult your dentist if you’re experiencing teeth sensitivity to determine the root cause of your pain.
Sensitive teeth are usually the result of worn down tooth enamel and gum recession. But, sometimes tooth pain or sensitivity can be coming from a more serious dental issue that needs to be treated by your dentist, like a chipped tooth or gum disease. The best way to determine where your tooth sensitivity is coming from is to talk to your dentist and attend your regular dental check-ups.


What are the treatment options for teeth sensitivity?
Once you and your dentist have determined the root cause of your tooth sensitivity, then you can work towards a treatment plan. If your teeth sensitivity is because the enamel has been worn down from grinding, then wearing a mouth guard at night could help prevent additional enamel from wearing down. However, once enamel is worn down, there isn’t a perfect solution for replacing it. Tooth erosion is permanent; if it’s severe enough, you may need fillings, crowns, root canals, or even tooth removal. Cosmetically, veneers may be a good option to restore your smile.


Sensitive Formula Toothpaste
There are a number of good over-the-counter sensitive teeth toothpaste, like Sensodyne, Colgate’s Sensitive Pro-Relief, or Arm and Hammer Sensitive Teeth & Gums. Look for sensitive toothpaste potassium nitrate and stannous fluoride. Potassium nitrate soothes the nerves on the inside of your teeth, preventing your teeth from sending pain signals whenever they come into contact with triggers like cold air or a hot drink. Stannous fluoride works like a shield to protect your soft, exposed dentin.


Fluoride gel
Fluoride varnish or gel is a very concentrated type of fluoride. Your dentist or dental hygienist will apply this fluoride to the surface of the affected teeth. The fluoride acts as therapy; it conceals exposed dentin and strengthens your enamel. This treatment reduces pain and discomfort and can be repeated as necessary.


Fillings that cover exposed roots
If tooth sensitivity is occurring in conjunction with pain from an exposed root (caused by tooth decay), then bonding agents or dental fillings seal your tooth to strengthen your enamel and dentin. Dental sealants are a very fast procedure and alleviate discomfort quickly.


Root Canal Treatment
If your sensitivity is very serious and is caused by damaged nerve tissues inside of the tooth, then your dentist may suggest a root canal. South Charlotte Dentistry conducts a painless, safe, and effective root canal treatment that will relieve pain and tooth sensitivity.


Don’t shy away from dental pain or sensitivity. Talk to your team at South Charlotte Dentistry today!
If you’re experiencing dental pain, talk to your dentist. Your dentist can explain the effects of your dietary choices on your teeth, and provide recommendations on nutritional choices to keep your smile bright and pain free over your lifetime!

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