On a hot summer day, it is common to treat your children with nice, cool refreshments to make them more comfortable in the heat. What is not as common is your child complaining of sharp pain in his or her teeth afterward. We aren’t talking about brain freezes–we are talking about sensitive teeth! It is estimated that 45 million Americans struggle with sensitive teeth annually making it an extremely common condition, and what can be surprising to some is that children are also susceptible to sensitive teeth.
What is tooth sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity can be triggered by hot or cold temperatures, sweet or sour foods and drinks, or deep cavities and fillings. Your teeth are protected by a layer of enamel that protects the exposed portions of your teeth below the gumline. If the enamel layer thins or wears down, it exposes dentin. Dentin is more porous and contains microscopic canals known as tubules which when exposed can allow fluid to flow through them and irritate the nerves within your teeth.
Though people are more likely to develop sensitive teeth between the ages of 25 and 30, children can also experience tooth sensitivity. Since children are not always able to explain how or where they feel pain, it is important to ask questions and take them to the dentist for a proper diagnosis.
Various factors can cause or increase your risk of developing sensitive teeth. Some of the most common causes include:
- Acidic foods and beverages can eat away at enamel and make teeth more prone to erosion.
- Certain dental conditions may also increase their risk of tooth sensitivity such as an overcrowded smile, damaged teeth, crooked teeth, and misaligned bites.
- Incoming permanent teeth can cause your child’s teeth to shift creating discomfort and causing temporary sensitivity.
- Over brushing with a hard bristle brush or firm hand can wear down on enamel and expose porous surfaces that lead to increased sensitivity.
- Patients who grind their teeth may create small fractures in their teeth that may irritate nerves and increase sensitivity as well.
- Poor oral health habits such as not brushing properly or flossing may also cause plaque and bacteria to build up and break down a tooth’s enamel, weakening them and making them more susceptible to sensitivity.
- Silver fillings can be sensitive to thermal fluctuations making your child’s teeth more sensitive.
- Tooth decay, cavities, or deep or broken fillings that penetrate deeply close to the nerve may also cause irritation and the development of tooth sensitivity.
The treatment will depend on the cause and severity. If pain is due to a recent dental procedure or cleaning, the sensitivity is most likely temporary and an over-the-counter pain reliever, like Arnica or Ibuprofen, should help to reduce pain until the discomfort subsides.
For those whose sensitivity is caused by poor hygiene habits, then switching toothbrushes and brushing patterns, and working on daily flossing, can provide a great deal of relief. A soft-bristle brush will help to keep teeth clean without damaging the enamel or gums. Using toothpaste designed for those with sensitive teeth can also help offer relief. I recommend hydroxyapatite pastes to my patients, such as Boka or Risewell. There are others on the market, but many don’t have the ideal % of hydroxyapatite needed for full efficacy. Patients should notice a difference after several weeks of normal usage.
If sensitivity is due to grinding or clenching, getting to root causes is key and seeing an airway-focussed dentist is a great place to start. If the sensitivity is severe and caused by a dental condition, restorative treatment such as a filling, a sealant, or ozone or hydroxyapatite may help stabilize, strengthen, and protect your child’s teeth from sensitivity.
Once enamel is worn down, it cannot be restored or brought back so the best method of protection is prevention. Proper brushing and flossing techniques will help to prevent plaque buildup from eating away at your enamel. Sensitive teeth shouldn’t prevent your child from enjoying life to the fullest. For more information on sensitive teeth or to schedule an appointment, contact contact NoPo Kids Dentistry today.