Tooth sensitivity can be a pain in the… mouth. It can take root, quite literally, and linger for awhile, making anything hot or cold quite uncomfortable to consume. If you’ve ever experienced sensitivity in your teeth, you can only imagine what it might be like for your little ones.
Sensitivity is often the result of loss and wear of the protective outer layer of the tooth known as enamel. Enamel covers the cementum of the tooth, or the surface layer of the tooth root. When this is worn away, your tooth’s dentin is exposed which is full of tiny tubes with nerves running through them, and exposed nerves lead to sensitivity and pain when anything hot, cold, or sugary comes in contact. There are several reasons why this could happen to you or your child’s teeth:
Top Causes of Sensitivity
Cavities are a result of decay and breakdown of the enamel and tooth itself, especially if left untreated. They are the most common cause for dental pain.
Brushing too roughly
kids can be a bit rough with their toothbrush which can gradually wear away on the enamel. Kids with braces tend to brush roughly in a back-and-forth motion near gum lines which can also cause inflamed gums along with sensitive teeth. Be sure to replace toothbrushes often and purchase soft-bristled ones. Teach your child to brush softly so not to “squish their bristles”. A good way to know if your child is brushing too hard is to take a look at their toothbrush. Have the bristles splayed?
Receding gum line
Decay can cause gum disease and also receding gum lines. If your child complains of sensitivity or pain near their gum line, this could be the cause.
Depending on your child’s age and growth and loss of adult teeth, this could also cause some temporary sensitivity. New teeth are not accustomed to air and differing temperatures of food and beverages but should acclimate within a couple weeks.
Grinding teeth or clenching the jaw can cause microfractures in the tooth, as well as a sore jaw!
Pressure from mild sinus infections, allergies, or bacterial congestion can cause a feeling similar to tooth sensitivity. If there is history of allergies or sinus trouble in your family, the two could be related. Tapping the tooth lightly may help determine if the sensitivity is related. If a sensation is present, it likely isn’t sinus or allergy related.
Acidic food and drinks
It may not seem obvious, but acidic foods and drinks can break down the enamel over time and give way to sensitivity. Think oranges, pickles, juice, soda… limit some of these foods and also remind your child to drink some water after eating, which is always a good habit to practice, and brush after meals.
What you can do:
Scheduling an appointment with your child’s doctor or pediatrician can help determine the cause of sensitivity. Of course, sensitivity can be bothersome with meals, intake of fluids and even breathing, so what can you do in the meantime?
- Brush gently! Use a soft brush and brush in small, circular motions. Also, brush with lukewarm water to prevent irritating the tooth.
- Note which tooth or teeth are sensitive and around what part of the tooth. Advise your child to chew on the alternate side of their mouth
- Drink room temperature water and warm teas or other hot-serve beverages. Refrain from sugary and acidic fruit drinks.
- Advise your child to breath through their nose, especially if it is cold outside!
- In the case of a sinus infection or allergies, encourage your child to fully sneeze; not to hold their sneeze or plug their nose.
- Try a toothpaste for sensitive teeth, as they contain less abrasives. Do this under the recommendation of your dentist though, as some products are not for use in children under 12.
- Talk to your dentist about a mouthguard if your child grinds their teeth, and help them find a new sleep position. Remind them to “not let their teeth touch” apart from chewing to help them understand how to relax their jaw.
If you or your child are experiencing sensitivity, consider all causes such as those we listed and consult your dentist or doctor! He or she can help you determine the cause and give you further tips to help heal and prevent decay and sensitivity.