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How to Prevent and Treat Tooth Sensitivity
Dr. Laurel Linetsky-Fleisher

If eating ice cream or sipping a hot coffee is sometimes painful, or if flossing, brushing or even... more

how to prevent tooth sensitivity
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If eating ice cream or sipping a hot coffee is sometimes painful, or if flossing, brushing or even breathing in cold air makes you occasionally wince you may have dental sensitivity. Over half of adults report experiencing some form of dental sensitivity that is triggered by hot, cold, sweet or sour foods and drinks.  It is the most common dental complaint and can be very uncomfortable.  It is important to know that it can come and go over time.

What causes dental sensitivity?
The most common cause of tooth sensitivity is shrinking gums. Another cause of sensitivity is excessive enamel wear.

Enamel is the protective outer coating of our teeth and is the strongest substance in the body, but it can be worn away. 
In both these situations, the layer underneath the enamel becomes exposed to the environment. This inner exposed layer, called dentin, contains thousands of tiny channels that lead directly to the nerves inside every tooth.  When this exposed layer is stimulated by coming in contact with cold, hot, or sweet foods, or even being touched by cutlery or the bristles of a toothbrush it can be painful.

Factors that lead to sensitive teeth:
How do we lose enamel?  Why do our gums shrink?

  • Fractured or cracked teeth can expose dentin
  • Worn down enamel can come from grinding at night or clenching during the day
  • Erosion of the enamel can come from eating very acidic foods or drinks or from acid reflux, bulimia or morning sickness
  • Aggressive tooth brushing or use of a hard bristled tooth brush can wear enamel down over time and may cause gum recession
  • Shrinking gums can occur if you have gum disease
  • Age alone, as we age we tend to get gum shrinkage over time

How can we treat or prevent this from happening?

  1. Proper oral hygiene, including nightly flossing and proper brushing technique (no circles or up and down movements) with a soft bristled toothbrush, and the use of a desensitizing toothpaste (they contain substances that help block sensation from travelling from the tooth surface to the nerve.  These toothpastes actually block and seal the dentin channels. They must be used every day in order to be effective, and some brands deliver instant relief from sensitivity.
  2. Cut back a bit on citrus fruits and soda pop. Wait 30 minutes before brushing after consuming acidic food or drinks to help prevent acid erosion of the enamel.  Rinse with water or chew sugarless gum to help stimulate saliva to wash off the teeth. Drink room temperature water and warm coffee instead of hot until your pain symptoms are under control.
  3. Dental sensitivity is usually characterized as a short, sharp pain that is brought on by eating hot or cold foods or drinks or exposure to cold air. If you have pain that lingers or is spontaneous in nature (ie. not brought on by temperature or food related) or that wakes you up in the middle of the night you must see a dentist to rule out a more serious dental condition, like severe recession or severely worn teeth from grinding.

Image of dentist from Shutterstock.

Dr. Laurel Linetsky-Fleisher is the mother of four boys and a family dentist at Brush, Floss & Smile. She has been practicing dentistry for over twenty years.
Comments | Tagged under health, advice, wellness
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How do I teach my child to choose healthy snacks?
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The data is out there: we need to cut back on the junk food. So how do we make that happen in our own homes? Here are five ways to make sure that your child develops healthy eating habits.

  1. Decide what foods you want fuelling your child’s body. Once you know, it is easier to decide what fits and what should be left out (at least most of the time).
  2. Now it is time to get your little one in on the action. Let’s imagine that you’ve decided that five servings of fruit and vegetables will make up a portion of your child’s diet. Create a chart on the fridge with five spaces so that your child can keep track when choosing a snack.
  3. With your youngster, brainstorm a list of snacks that include those fruits, veggies, healthy proteins or whatever else you’ve chosen.
  4. When your child is ready for a snack, have them choose from their list of healthy snacks that they helped to make. Look at the check list together to determine what they need for a healthy snack today.
  5. What about sweets? Decide when those should happen as well and add them to the chart. Once you have made the decision, it is easier for everyone to stick to it. An example might be: one sweet treat on Saturdays and Sundays, or one sweet item per day after lunch. Once you’ve made a decision, make sure everyone knows it and stick to your decision. When we say what we mean and follow through, our kids don’t have to test us over and over again. That’s easier for everyone!

When we involve our kids in the process of brainstorming healthy snacks, deciding what fuel our body needs and choosing within those parameters, we know that we are teaching them that they are capable of making healthy choices on their own.

Image of child with apple from Shutterstock.

Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell provide tools for real life parenting through their company, Parenting Power™. Using over 40 years of combined experience, they work with parents across the country through telephone coaching and teleconferences to ease the stress and guilt of parents while providing practical solutions to everyday parenting challenges. Visit to ask your own parenting questions, and learn how to receive 20% off all services as a Parenting Power Member!
Comments | Tagged under health, snacks, wellness
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