The great British summer is just around the corner, which hopefully means it’ll be sun hats and factor 50 lotion at the ready (we’re due a good one, don’t you know…)
With the sunshine always comes a raft of delicious refreshments, including iced summer cocktails and of course the obligatory Solero. This is great, unless you’re one of the many people who suffer from sensitive teeth! Sensitivity is increasingly common, with 53% of adults reporting some symptoms of sensitivity.* But you don’t need to let toothache ruin your summer plans.
So, what causes sensitivity? Most of the time it’s due to the teeth losing some of their very strong outer layer, called enamel. This tough outer coating protects the softer dentine underneath, but when it is lost, cold air and dietary sugars can more easily penetrate into the teeth causing pain – ouch!
How does sensitivity happen?
There are a couple of ways this can happen. The first is when you have a high level of acid in your diet – things like fizzy drinks and fresh fruit juices. Dentists call this enamel loss erosion. The best way to minimise erosion is to reduce these things from your diet, but of course this is not always possible in the summer months. However, you can help your teeth by drinking any acidic drinks with a straw, stopping the liquid from washing over the surfaces of the teeth. It also helps to follow an acidic drink with some water.
Help your teeth by drinking any acidic drinks with a straw, stopping the liquid from washing over the surfaces of the teeth.
Sometimes teeth are sensitive from brushing too hard. If the gums are over-brushed they can move down the tooth surface, exposing the weaker root surface – we call this recession. The root is much more permeable and is very sensitive to cold. One way to help this is to invest in an electric toothbrush. With electric toothbrushes the head moves/vibrates and removes the plaque for you so you only have to move the toothbrush gently along the surfaces of the teeth, rather than scrub them. This means you are much less likely to push the gums away and expose the sensitive root dentine. My favourite is the Diamond Clean from Phillips Sonicare – which now comes in a range of fun summer colours, including pink and purple – and will leave your teeth feeling squeaky clean!
One great way of alleviating sensitivity at home is to use a toothpaste designed for sensitivity. This can be used in the conventional way, to brush the teeth with, but did you know you can also use it like a cream? Rubbing the toothpaste into the sensitive areas on a nightly basis can dramatically reduce sensitive symptoms. The fluoride in the toothpaste penetrates into the exposed dentine, helping to seal the open tubules and harden the enamel, and with it reducing sensitivity.
Rubbing the toothpaste into the sensitive areas on a nightly basis can dramatically reduce sensitive symptoms.
Summer is a busy time with holidays abroad and staycations aplenty. But it is important to keep your regular check-ups with your dentist and hygienist to ensure your teeth and gums are as healthy as they can be. Occasionally, very sensitive exposed areas need a special covering to seal them – your dentist can easily provide this simple treatment for you. Don’t get caught out on holiday with toothache that could have been avoided!
And then it’s time to show off those pearly whites in the holiday snaps!
* GSK consumer IPSOS research conducted September 2012 which surveyed 754 consumers aged 18+ in the UK.
Harriet was brought up in South East London but began her career as a dentist at the University of Sheffield’s School of Clinical Dentistry.
She has been a member of the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry for several years. Her Young Membership and Communications Committee involvement allows her to travel countrywide promoting awareness of the academy amongst dental students and young graduates. Through this she hopes to inspire a future generation of dentists to provide their patients with treatment of the highest standards.
Harriet has an infectious passion for dentistry. She regularly writes articles and online blog posts for fellow clinicians and dental students. She believes that through sharing knowledge and experience, dentists can continually improve their skills and provide the best patient care.
She has a gentle and caring manner, putting even the most anxious patients at ease. She is dedicated to providing an open and honest approach, ensuring her patients fully understand their oral health and treatment requirements.