Summer means ice cream cones and popsicles, but if biting into a frozen treat makes you cringe, you’re likely one of 40 million adults in the U.S. who deal with tooth sensitivity at some point. The problem is typically due to exposed cementum (the outer layer of the root) and dentin, which can result from worn enamel or receding gums. “Dentin, the layer of the tooth beneath hard enamel, contains microscopic tubules that, when unprotected, allow cold to reach the nerve, causing sharp, intermittent pain” explains Sarah Lorei, DMD, of Millennium Way Dental Studio in Enola, Pennsylvania. Fortunately, cold sensitivity can be treated.
Medium or hard toothbrush bristles can wear down enamel and leave dentin exposed.
Take it easy.
A toothbrush that’s frayed before three months is a sign you’re using too much force, which can damage your gums and aggravate symptoms.
Try a night guard.
See your dentist if you clench your jaw or notice grinding at night, which can wear down enamel and irritate the nerves in your teeth. You may need to be fitted with a mouth guard to wear while you sleep.
Dry mouth can worsen sensitivity if the dentin is dried out too. Use whitening products sparingly, avoid overusing mouthwash that contains alcohol, (it can dry your mouth), and breathe through your nose.
Get it checked out.
Sensitivity that lingers more than three or four days may indicate something more serious, like an underlying cavity or abscess, says Dr. Lorei. Otherwise, your dentist might prescribe a desensitizing toothpaste or a fluoride treatment to strengthen enamel.
Spoon your hard ice cream from a cup, try soft-serve froyo with added room temp toppings, or drink a milkshake through a straw to avoid tender areas.