This is a common complaint in any dental office. The first suspect is always decay. As we all know from experience, a sharp twinge of pain is often the first sign of a cavity when some bit of food or liquid—hot or cold, sweet or sour—
enters a hole we didn’t know was there. Yow!
It can be bad and, if not taken care of, can cause an abscess, which is even worse. Take the hint: if you experience this kind of pain, see your dentist as soon as possible.
To see if there is decay between teeth or under crowns, your dentist will probably want to take x-rays. Less intense tooth sensitivity has other causes—mainly, wearing down of the tooth surface because of grinding or clenching of the teeth, acid reflux, bulimia, and dry mouth.
When the layer of enamel on a tooth is thinner, the nerve is more exposed than it would be without wear—a condition that allows the nerve to be sensitive to hot and cold and other agents such as very sweet or sour foods.
Abnormal wear can be caused by a toothbrush, believe it or not. It’s most common to see this kind of abrasion at the gumline, where enamel is the thinnest. Solution—use an electric toothbrush with a rotary brush, which is much less likely to abrade or scratch enamel at the gumline. If you prefer a manual
toothbrush, avoid the kind with hard bristles. I recommend the Nimbus brand of manual toothbrush.
That said, it’s usually abrasive toothpaste that causes the most damage. Just as some soaps are gentle and others harsh, some toothpastes are abrasive and others less so. Abrasion is what sandpaper does to surfaces, and it’s what some
toothpastes do to your enamel. Sure, they get your teeth clean and sparkly, but over time, they also make them sensitive by wearing away the surface.
I recommend using toothpastes with an abrasiveness rating of less than eighty. You can find the numbers on my website at smilefitness.info/additional-resources under Health and Wellness Issues. Practically every brand of toothpaste is listed, and next to each is an RDA rating. RDA stands for “relative dentin abrasivity.”
But you don’t need to remember that phrase; just look at the numbers. Some brands are rated at nearly 200! Choose any brand of 80 or under, and you’ll be fine. Notice too that baking soda has an RDA of only four, which is why your mother’s dentist recommended it for home care. Today, we have more powerful solutions.
Other forms of abrasion can occur because of oral habits or lifestyle. A tongue ring, for example, can abrade any tooth surface that it regularly touches. Brushing right after eating something highly acidic, like orange juice, can also erode the tooth surface. It’s better to rinse your mouth with water or a low-acid mouthwash after consuming highly acidic foods.