Eating and drinking are two of life’s great pleasures. If you are unable to enjoy one or both of these due to sensitivity in your teeth then you are probably very interested to find a way to deal with the problem so you can eat and drink whatever you want again. And people suffer from many problems often due to poor oral hygiene, such as tooth decay, damaged tooth enamel, gum disease, bleeding gums, bad breath caused by gingivitis, plaque on the teeth and gums, and the most common being tooth sensitivity. Fear not, however, for there are plenty of mouthwashes and home remedies to try that may help or completely fix your problem.
Teeth can become sensitive for several reasons, but ultimately, it is because the layer of dentin below your tooth’s enamel has become exposed. This dentin layer is responsible for transferring sensation information from the enamel to the nerves at the center of the tooth so when it does not have the enamel as a buffer most sensations are registered as a shock and pain. The level of exposure tends to correlate with the extent to which the dentin has become exposed. If your sensitivity has just started and is not debilitating, then it can likely be treated with products that are made for reducing sensitivity.
There are plenty of commercially available toothpaste that can help with sensitive teeth, but did you know that there are also mouthwashes that perform a similar function? There was actually a study done in 2012 where two groups with existing tooth sensitivity were divided up in half. One group was given a sensitivity toothpaste and the other was given a sensitivity mouthwash and regular toothpaste. The resulting sensitivity levels at two and four weeks were measured and both groups had experienced a significant amount of desensitizing. Even more significant, there was no difference between the two groups indicating that one worked better than the other. Therefore, if you have sensitive teeth you can use a desensitizing toothpaste, mouthwash, or both.
Desensitizing mouthwash works in two ways to help your teeth. Since the sensitivity is caused by exposed dentin, one thing the mouthwash does is apply a mild anesthetic, such as potassium citrate or potassium nitrate, to desensitize the dentin and nerves in the teeth. These mouthwashes also include ingredients that coat the tooth to make it stronger and build up an external layer of protection. This tends to be in the form of sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride, and calcium phosphate.
When choosing a mouthwash to help with your sensitive teeth, make sure it contains at least one of the anesthetizing ingredients and one of the protective ingredients. Most mouthwashes created to tackle sensitivity that has been endorsed by the ADA will include these, so looking for that stamp of approval will help narrow your search. The best options will be by known leading brands such as Colgate, Sensodyne, and ACT. You can always consult with your dentist to get their recommendation if you are not sure which one to choose. Since it takes a few regular uses for the protecting ingredients to build up a strong enough layer, do not give up if you still have sensitivity after a few days. Also, it is important to continue to use your mouthwash on a regular basis to keep the protection strong.
“The active ingredient in many tartar-control toothpastes actually make tooth sensitivity worse. If you already have sensitive teeth or notice your teeth have become sensitive after using a tartar-control toothpaste, tartar-control toothpaste is not for you. It is best to rely on good daily hygiene habits at home to remove plaque before it turns into tartar. Putting the time in to brushing with a soft-bristle brush and flossing will yield a bigger benefits without the additional tooth sensitivity.”
There are a few behavioral changes that you can make to help reduce the sensitivity in your teeth. Make sure you are using a soft bristled brush and not pressing too hard when you brush or floss as this can wear down the enamel and buff away any protective layer that you have started to build up with your mouthwash and/or sensitivity toothpaste. Do not eat highly acidic food since this can be quickly corrosive. It is also a good idea to cut down on sweets and bread since the carbohydrates react with the bacteria in your mouth to form acids, which can be as corrosive as just eating acidic food.
If your sensitivity is in the molars then it is possible you might be grinding your teeth at night. If this is the case then try a night guard to reduce the damage and give your teeth and jaw some rest. You might be grinding your teeth due to stress or sleep apnea so if you know that either of these conditions exists in your life you should take steps to try to resolve them.
If you are not a fan of chemically modifying your teeth or simply do not have access to mouthwash that is made for sensitive teeth, then there are a few other methods you can try to reduce sensitivity.
1. Salt Water Rinse – Salt water is the number one recommended natural remedy for oral pain and sensitivity. It is a natural antiseptic and improves the pH of your mouth which can provide relief quickly. Simply mix a tablespoon of salt with a glass of warm water and then rinse with the mixture once or twice per day.
2. Essential Oils – There are many essential oils to choose from. A lot of essential oils have antibacterial and analgesic properties, which makes them ideal for both protecting your teeth from harmful bacteria as well as numbing sensitive teeth. Some, like cinnamon and peppermint oil, can simply be added to your toothpaste (only one drop necessary). Others, such as clove oil, can be mixed with a carrier oil in a 1:4 ratio and applied to the sensitive tooth.
3. Garlic & Onion – Though you might not like the effect these have on your breath, garlic and onion include compounds that are antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Garlic even includes allicin, which is a natural anesthetic. Either of these can be applied directly to the sensitive tooth and held there for 5–10 minutes two or three times per day.
Sensitive teeth are no fun and if you have developed a sudden sensitivity you should see your dentist as soon as possible to investigate the cause. You do not need to suffer while you wait for your appointment though. Try any or all of these methods and see which one works best to give you some relief.