The Guide To Sensitive Brushing: Helping With Heightened Sensitivity

The Guide To Sensitive Brushing Helping With Heightened Sensitivity

While many people brush, floss and eat with no discomfort whatsoever, many Americans struggle with pain caused by sensitive teeth. According to Colgate, as many as 45 million US adults have sensitive teeth. Research conducted the Journal of the American Dental Association estimates that 1 in 8 people have a sensitivity issue and women are 1.8 times more likely to have heightened sensitivity.

Not only can sensitivity inhibit daily activities like eating lunch, it can diminish your dental hygiene habits and compromise your smile. If it hurts to brush your teeth, you are less likely to do it consistently.

Some cases of heightened are so severe that even breathing in cold air can cause a pang of pain. Let’s explore causes, solutions and tips for taking care of highly sensitive teeth.


Those with sensitive teeth find that pain is activated by certain activities and foods. Thermal variation (hot or cold air, water or food) can stimulate a response as well as chemical variation (significantly acidic or sweet foods and drinks). This means that avoiding certain trigger foods and drinks can help you avoid pain.

Trigger Foods To Avoid:

  • Hot cocoa
  • Iced coffee
  • Hot soup
  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Vinegar based dressings
  • Hard candy
  • Sugary sodas

You can also counteract the effects of these trigger foods by eating them in conjunction with dairy as it can provides a protective protein or casein layer.

One of the most vexing pain triggers for those with sensitive teeth is the act of brushing your teeth. The pressure stimulates a painful response, but you can’t go without brushing your teeth!


Exposed dentin is the major source of discomfort for those with sensitive teeth. Dentin is the tissue below your enamel that has tiny tubules and nerve endings. There are many different ways that dentin can become exposed or compromised. Here are a few possible causes.

  • Gum recession due to aging, over-aggressive brushing or gum disease.
  • Sometimes those who suffer from bruxism can develop heightened sensitivity because of the way their teeth have been worn down to expose dentin.
  • Cavities, chips and fractures in your teeth can also cause sensitivity in the form of intense zings of pain.
  • Enamel erosion caused by acid reflux, bulimia or excessive consumption of acidic foods like citrus fruits, apples, pickles, vinegar, wine, etc.
  • Excessive bleaching can cause your teeth to become extra sensitive.
  • Fluorosis (condition caused by excessive fluoride use). Those with fluorosis have hypermineralized enamel on their teeth that can results in white flecks or dark pits.


Sensitive teeth are best brushed with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Aggressive brushing can wear away your enamel and exacerbate your sensitive teeth. It can also contribute to gum recession which is another common culprit behind sensitive teeth.

Amazon has an amazing selection to choose from. Some of our favorites here at Bridge Creek Dental include:

  • The Colgate 360 Enamel Health Extra Soft Toothbrush. This brush has extra soft bristles and a built-in tongue and cheek cleaner.
  • Electric toothbrushes are good for sensitive teeth because they do the work for you. The swiftly rotating heads clean your teeth at an appropriate pressure. Sometimes when we brush our teeth with a manual toothbrush we can apply too much pressure without realizing it. In fact, Registered Dental Hygienist magazine reports that one of the advantages of power toothbrushes is that less force is needed to remove plaque. Less force equals less pain for sensitive teeth sufferers. Choosing a special extra-soft head will make your brushing even better. The Philips Sonicare Sensitive is a great option.

No matter what you use, be sure you are brushing at least twice a day. Brushing will remove any traces of substances that incite sensitivity while also preventing your from developing an even greater sensitivity.


These days, there is a toothpaste for everything. From bubble-gum flavored kid’s toothpaste to whitening formulas and more. And lucky for you, there is a great sector of the market devoted specifically for those with heightened sensitivity.

While brands vary, the one ingredient you want to check the label for is potassium nitrate. Potassium nitrate, approved by the American Dental Association and Food & Drug Administration for up to 5 percent in toothpaste, is effective because it calms the nerve endings in your teeth while blocking the tubules to relieve the pain. Think of it as a shield protecting your teeth from potential aggravators like an icy cold soda or an acidic piece of fruit.


  • Test the effectiveness of your particular brand of special toothpaste by applying it directly on the sensitive areas and then spitting but not rinsing. After a few weeks of this remedy, you should be feeling less pain.
  • Provided that your sensitivity isn’t caused by fluorosis, try a fluoride rinse. For some people, using a rinse can actually decrease sensitivity, especially if decay is the issue fueling your pain. Talk one of our dental specialists about getting a high-strength rinse or gel prescribed.
  • Try to neutralize the acid level in your mouth after eating offending foods. Chewing gum and drinking water until you have an opportunity to brush your teeth can be helpful.


  • Fluoride varnishes are one great way to defend your teeth against sensitivity. This treatment is done at our office and we apply a thin coating of protective varnish that strengthens your enamel and can ease discomfort.
  • Bonding. We can applying bonding material to your teeth to provide a more substantial barrier between your dentin and the substances that aggravate your teeth.
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