There are so many oral hygiene products on the market now that are tailored to your specific needs – but which is right for you? Let me help you wade through all the confusion with Part II of The Right Oral Hygiene For You. I began this conversation by explaining what is needed for the “cavity-prone” patient. This week I’ll help you understand what is right for the “sensitive” patient.
Patients who experience sensitivity when they brush or drink hot or cold liquids usually have similar underlying issues with their teeth. The most common issues actually have something to do with the gums. Let me explain – your tooth has three layers to it.
The first is the ENAMEL, which is the hardest, shiniest and strongest part of the tooth. Enamel covers the “clinical crown” of the tooth, which is the part of tooth you see when you look at your teeth. It’s very dense in its makeup and because of that, it doesn’t allow liquids to penetrate into the nerve of the tooth and cause temperature sensitivity.
Below the enamel is the softer, yellower, more porous layer called DENTIN. Patients who grind their teeth can actually wear through the enamel right into the dentin. When this happens it exposes this softer, porous layer to communicate with your mouth. Therefore hot or cold liquids or anything abrasive will have more of an effect on your teeth.
The third layer of your teeth is something called CEMENTUM, which is the layer that surrounds the root of the tooth below the gumline. As your gums recede, this becomes exposed and is the most porous, softest layer of the tooth. This is where some extreme sensitivity can come from. So now that we know what causes it, how do we use the products available to us to combat it?
The first key component to stopping sensitivity is to use the proper brush. It is imperative to use a soft-bristled brush. Most people think that the harder the brush, the more stains you can get at, but actually the hard-bristled brushes can actually wear away your healthy enamel. Buying the right electric toothbrush and using it properly will help.
The next thing you need is the right toothpaste. Unfortunately, most “whitening” toothpastes have heavy silica particles in them which is what “whitens” the teeth via stain removal. (As a side note, no whitening toothpaste actually “bleaches” your teeth, they simply “whiten” by removing stains) So we have to avoid using these if you’re experiencing sensitivity. It’s best to use a paste that contains potassium nitrate, recaldent, amorphous calcium phosphate or heavy doses of fluoride. What these do is close down or calcify the pores on the exposed cementum or dentin, which will reduce sensitivity. Toothpastes I recommend are Sensodyne or Crest Sensitive.
For mouth rinses, it is crucial to stay away from anything with alcohol. Alcohol can actually aggravate your gums and cause irritation that will further expose the cementum layer. The best thing is to use a rinse with a high-fluoride content, I recommend ACT. It doesn’t contain alcohol and it does have a high-fluoride content.
I have one more trick to help control sensitivity. Much of it is caused from grinding or clenching your teeth. It happens because you’re physically wearing away enamel as well as putting constant pressure on the teeth that leaves them swollen, in a way. For immediate results, go to your dentist and get fitted for a nightguard. It’s not sexy, I know, but it will help.
Hope these tips help. If you have questions just type your comment below, I answer them all personally.