10 Tips for Sensitivity Relief

1. How to Brush Your Teeth*

When you brush your teeth, your goal is to remove as much plaque as possible. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), plaque is a bacteria-filled, translucent substance that coats the teeth and gums. Removing plaque by brushing helps keep teeth healthy and cavity-free. You and your children should brush your teeth for a minimum of two minutes. During brushing, you should brush the inside, outside and top of every tooth with short back-and-forth motions. Remember to brush your teeth gently, however, because rigorous brushing can irritate the gums. Don't forget to brush soft tissues as well, including the gum line and your tongue, to remove as much oral bacteria as possible. To help clean your entire mouth, consider using the Colgate® 360°® toothbrush with a built-in tongue and cheek cleaner.

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2. Use a Desensitizing Toothpaste Such as Colgate® Sensitive

All Colgate® Sensitive products include potassium nitrate, an ingredient that desensitizes the nerves, and alleviates teth pain.

2. Use a Desensitizing Toothpaste Such as Colgate® Sensitive

Regular toothpaste only does so much for sensitive teeth, but Colgate® Sensitive toothpaste is formulated to benefit people who suffer from tooth pain caused by sensitivity.

All Colgate® Sensitive products include potassium nitrate, an ingredient that desensitizes the nerves and alleviates the pain caused by sensitive teeth.

When the enamel on a tooth is worn down, or the gumline is recessed, the dentin is exposed, and can lead to tooth sensitivity. Why? Dentin is the layer of the tooth just below the enamel. It contains thousands of tiny pathways that run from the center of the tooth, the pulp (where the nerves of the tooth are located), to the surface. When the dentin is exposed, fluid flows outward from the pulp. If this flow is interrupted by exposure to heat or cold temperatures, change in pressure or sweet or sour foods and drinks, a signal gets transmitted to the nerves, which is then perceived as pain.

This sensation of pain from the tooth’s surface to the interior nerves is stopped by potassium nitrate. This blockage occurs because the potassium ions make their way into the pulp and prevent the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

Use Colgate® Sensitive Toothpastes. to Relieve Your Tooth Sensitivity

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3. Use a Soft-Bristled Toothbrush

A hard-bristled brush can cause gum recession and enamel erosion. Here’s a trick to make brushing sensitive teeth less painful.

3. Use a Soft-Bristled Toothbrush

A hard-bristled brush can cause gum recession and enamel erosion. Try using an extra soft-bristled brush such as the Colgate® 360°® Enamel Health™ Sensitive Toothbrush. If brushing your teeth is uncomfortable, here is a trick that will make brushing less painful.

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4. Don’t Brush your Teeth Immediately After Eating

Brushing after eating can actually weaken your tooth enamel.

4. Brushing Teeth Immediately After Eating Acidic Foods Can Cause Enamel Erosion

Brushing your teeth after eating can sometimes affect your tooth enamel. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you've consumed anything acidic, you should avoid brushing your teeth for at least 30 minutes. Foods containing citric acid, such as oranges, grapefruits and lemons, weaken tooth enamel. Brushing too soon after eating these types of foods can damage the enamel in its weakened state.

Therefore, it's a good idea to brush your teeth before eating an acidic food and to drink a glass of water when you are finished to wash away the acids. For the best results, and if you have sensitive teeth, you should use an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste like Colgate® Sensitive toothpaste. It contains fluoride to prevent tooth decay and potassium nitrate to help protect against tooth sensitivity.

As an alternative to waiting to brush your teeth, try eating nutritious foods that are low in carbohydrates and sugar after eating something acidic. This will help reduce the harmful acids that such foods can create.

In addition, according to the American Dental Association, prolonged exposure to phosphoric acid, an ingredient found in soft drinks, can erode hard tissues from the tooth surface. Acid erosion causes permanent damage to your teeth. To keep acid erosion to a minimum, limit snacking between meals and be mindful of consumption of soft drinks and sugary snack foods.

Try Colgate® Sensitive Toothpastes to Alleviate Sensitivity

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5. Talk to Your Dentist

A dental professional can diagnose your teeth sensitivity pain and tell you about different treatment options. Learn more

5. Talk to Your Dentist About Sensitivity

The best way to find out why you are experiencing tooth sensitivity is to have a dental professional examine you. He or she can look for the signs of dentin exposure, and run tests to determine what the true cause of the sensitivity is. Sometimes, sensitivity is caused by cavities or gum disease; these problems can be treated to address the sensitivity. Other times, sensitivity occurs because the enamel was lost due to abrasion or erosion. Other times the gums have receded, which causes the roots to become exposed.

What Can Be Done?

If sensitivity is due to a cavity, a tooth can be filled to alleviate the pain. If gum disease is the cause, a dentist can thoroughly clean the area.

However, if the cause is dentin exposure, then there are a number of professional and at-home treatments that can be performed to reduce the sensitivity.

In-Office Procedures:

  • Fluoride varnish can be applied to exposed areas to strengthen the enamel and the dentin.
  • Fluoride foam or gel can be administered directly to the teeth for three to five minutes. This provides the teeth with a high concentration of fluoride to make teeth stronger.
  • A bonding agent can be used to seal the dentin surface and provide a barrier to sensitivity causing stimuli.

At-Home Treatments:

  • Use a soft-bristle toothbrush.
  • Brush correctly and do not over brush your teeth.
  • Use toothpaste specially formulated with potassium nitrate to soothe the nerve endings in the tooth, such as Colgate® Sensitive toothpastes.
  • A dentist may prescribe a high concentration fluoride toothpaste to strengthen the tooth enamel.

There are a number of sensitivity treatments available, and your dental professional can help you decide what will work best. It is important to always seek a dental professional's advice — do not try to diagnose this problem yourself. Tooth sensitivity may be the sign of something more serious, and only a dental professional can tell you what it really is.

Use Colgate® Sensitive Toothpastes. to Soothe Tooth Sensitivity

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6. Avoid Acidic Foods and Beverages

One of the main causes of dental erosion is diet; learn which foods to avoid.

6. Avoid Acidic Foods and Beverages

Anything you eat or drink affects your dental health, sometimes with damaging results. Even wine, which some studies suggest may benefit cardiovascular health, can damage your teeth and enamel. A case study in the Journal of the American Dental Association takes a closer look at wine as an instigator of dental erosion.

Dental erosion, or the loss of tooth enamel due to chemicals, has numerous causes. Chief among them are dietary factors.

Dental erosion causes a scooped out, smooth depression on the tooth's surface. In many cases, erosion causes sensitivity to hot and cold substances. Tooth sensitivity can be painful especially if the enamel is worn down so the dentin is exposed. Beneath the enamel, dentin protects the pulp – the innermost part of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels.

Wine is a highly acidic drink, with white wine being slightly more acidic than red. The report’s author, Louis Mandel, D.D.S., describes the effect of wine on enamel saying, "Because the critical point at which enamel dissolves is reported to be a pH of 5.0 to 5.7, wine can be a serious player in dental erosion." Thus, prolonged exposure to the acids in wine can lead to softening of the tooth enamel. He adds, "The altered enamel now becomes susceptible to wearing away" by chewing and tooth brushing.

Dr. Mandel presents the case report "because wine gradually has become part of society's diet and because dentists are in the key position to note the dental damage it can cause."

Other dietary factors involved in enamel erosion include fruits, juices and candies with high concentrations of citric acid and carbonated beverages. Dental erosions can have a myriad of causes, from reflux disease, gastritis or bulimia to the prolonged oral retention of medications such as hydrochloric acid tablets, vitamin C or aspirin. To find out the cause, it's important to have the condition evaluated by a dentist.

Dr. Mandel has additional advice to wine drinkers: Restrict wine consumption to meal-time; use fluoride toothpastes, mouthwashes and topical applications; use proper brushing techniques with a soft toothbrush; and delay brushing at least 30 minutes after drinking wine and other acidic beverages so that teeth have time to remineralize after acid exposure.

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7. Seek Treatment for Tooth Grinding or Jaw Clenching

Grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw can actually cause tooth sensitivity.

7. Seek Treatment for Tooth Grinding or Jaw Clenching

Tooth grinding and tooth clenching, also called bruxism, is a common condition that that many children and adults experience. Bruxism occurs when the teeth contact each other in a forceful fashion. In some cases this can be silent or in other cases can cause a loud sound, most often when sleeping.

Why Does Bruxism Occur?

Bruxism can occur because of psychological stress that people may be dealing with during the week. Stress can be categorized in two ways — by internal and external factors.

Internal factors could be the foods you consume, your level of fitness, your emotional stability, your overall health and well-being, and the amount of sleep you get each night. External factors of psychological stress include the environment you are in each day, interaction with others and how you deal with challenges on a daily basis.

Bruxism's Impact on the Mouth

There are several symptoms that can occur when someone experiences bruxism:

  • Wearing away of the enamel and dentin
  • Cracking or chilling of the teeth, bridgework or implants can crack or chip
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Loosening of the teeth
  • Facial pain from jaw clenching
  • Headaches
  • Overall facial fatigue
  • Pain in the temporomandibular joint (the jaw bone on either side of the mouth)

Treating the Teeth Grinding and Jaw Clenching

Individuals suffering from bruxism should see a dental professional to determine why they are experiencing this problem. Your dental professional may recommend that you wear a mouth guard or a night guard to cushion the clenching or tooth grinding during sleeping. Additionally, your dental professional may suggest ways to reduce stress so you can decrease the level of bruxism. You should consider avoiding foods like chocolate, caffeinated drinks and alcoholic beverages. Avoid chewing forcefully.

Your dentist may suggest conducting exercises to relax your jaw muscles during the day. If your bruxism is more severe, an occlusal splint may be recommended and medication prescribed to help relax you or make you sleep more soundly.

Explore all Colgate® Sensitive Toothpastes to Find the Toothpaste for You

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8. Stop Using Tobacco Products

Using chewing tobacco as well as smoking cigarettes can cause periodontal disease, which is one cause of tooth sensitivity.

8. Stop Using Tobacco Products

Do you smoke cigarettes or cigars, or chew tobacco? If so, you are putting not only your overall health at risk, but also the health of your mouth, teeth and gums.

Smoking cigarettes can have many adverse effects on your oral and dental health, including:

  • Oral cancer
  • Periodontal disease, a leading cause of tooth loss and sensitivity
  • Delayed healing after a tooth extraction or other oral surgery
  • Fewer options for some kinds of dental care
  • Bad breath
  • Stained teeth and tongue
  • A diminished sense of taste and smell

Cigars are not a safe alternative to cigarettes. Even if you do not inhale cigar smoke, you are still at risk for oral and throat cancers. And like cigarette smokers, cigar smokers are at increased risk for periodontal disease, staining of the teeth and tongue, and bad breath. Like cigarettes and cigars, smokeless tobacco products contain a variety of toxins associated with cancer. Smokeless tobacco is known to cause cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue and pancreas. Users may also be at risk for cancer of the voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder, because they swallow some of the toxins in the juice created by the use of smokeless tobacco.

Smokeless tobacco can irritate gum tissue, causing periodontal disease. Sugar is often added to enhance the flavor of smokeless tobacco, thus increasing the risk of tooth decay. Smokeless tobacco also typically contains sand and grit, which can wear down the teeth.

If you are a tobacco user, there's no time like the present to quit. There are a number of strategies than can increase your chances of success, including enlisting the support of family, friends and co-workers, consulting with your dentist or physician about nicotine replacement therapy, and seeking tobacco-free environments to curb your temptations. For more help, call 1-800-QUITNOW or go to www.smokefree.gov.

Use a Colgate® Sensitive Toothpaste to Reduce Your Tooth Sensitivity

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9. Chew Gum After Teeth Whitening Treatments

A recent study found that people who chewed gum after undergoing tooth-whitening treatments actually experienced less sensitivity than those who didn’t.

9. Chew Gum After Tooth-Whitening Treatments

You want a brighter smile, but a teeth whitening treatment might temporarily make your pearly whites more sensitive. What do you do?

Researchers may have discovered an easy strategy for reducing sensitivity — chewing gum.

In a study published in the British Dental Journal, 88 patients who had their teeth whitened in a single, in-office dental visit were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Participants who chewed a sugar-free gum, participants who chewed a sugar-free gum with Recaldent (a milk-based product that helps strengthen teeth by delivering calcium and phosphate to teeth to remineralize enamel) or participants who did not use a desensitizing agent.

In results that surprised even the researchers, patients who chewed either type of sugar-free gum experienced significantly less intense tooth sensitivity than the group who didn't chew gum.

Scientists theorize that the act of chewing may have offered the patients therapeutic benefit; possibly because of it increased saliva flow to reduce sensitivity. Or maybe it was simple the act of chewing that distracted patients. The results show that the remineralizing agent, Recaldent, wasn't significantly better at desensitizing teeth.

According to the ADA, "chewing gum in various forms has been around since ancient times. The Greeks chewed sap from the mastic tree, called mastiche. On the other side of the world, the ancient Mayans favored the sap of the sapodilla tree (called tsiclte). Native Americans from New England chewed spruce sap — a habit they passed on to European settlers. Today, the base used for most gum products is a blend of synthetic materials (elastomeres, resins and waxes in various proportions). However, chewing gum is as popular as ever."

Currently, several sugar-free gums carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Clinical studies have shown that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay.

For more details on how chewing gum can help your oral health, visit ADA.org

Check Out Colgate® Sensitive Toothpastes to Relieve Tooth Sensitivity

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10. Try a Natural Sensitive Teeth Remedy

Natural remedies for sensitive teeth include rinsing with warm salt water, applying ice or exercising.

10. Try a Natural Remedy for Sensitive Teeth

Most toothaches are caused by sensitivity to the nerve of the tooth due to tooth decay, injury or infection. Other causes include gum disease, tooth fractures or even sinus infections that can cause bursts of pain. Though professional dental intervention may be necessary to restore the tooth and combat the pain, there are other natural remedies available if you dentist is not.

Rinse With Salt Water

Hot or cold water in your mouth may cause a shock to your already sensitive tooth but rinsing with warm salt water may alleviate the pain. Mix a couple teaspoons of table salt in a glass of warm water, then swish the mixture in your mouth. In addition to easing the pain and cleaning the infected areas, the salt also helps to draw out excess fluid around the swollen gum tissues.

Apply Ice to Stop Inflammation

The presence of cold helps to curb pain and swelling in superficial nerves, so applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the face may help numb the pain. You should, however, never apply ice directly to the tooth. Cold drinks may cause sensitivity pain if the root is damaged; this also applies to hot drinks and sugary foods.

Apply Oil of Cloves

Oil of cloves is an essential oil found in health food stores can also help soothe tooth pain. Apply a few drops to a cotton swab and apply it directly to the affected tooth. If the oil of cloves is too strong, dilute it with some olive oil.

Exercise May Help

You may not feel like moving around if you have a throbbing toothache, but for people who exercise regularly, moving about can release endorphins, the body's natural pain relievers. You may find that a brisk walk is helpful.

Mind and Body Relaxation

Getting your body into a relaxed state may help alleviate some tooth pain. Guide your mind into a state of relaxation by concentrating on something pleasant, practicing deep breathing, and listening to soothing music – this will hopefully divert your attention away from the pain. If all else fails, try an analgesic; anything you take for a headache, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen, should help combat the pain until you can see your dentist.

Help Relieve Sensitivity with Colgate® Sensitive Toothpastes.