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5 Ways to Help Sensitive Teeth Feel Better

These tips can help relieve pain before you know it.

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Sensitive teeth can happen at any time. Possible causes range from your tooth enamel wearing down to cavities to worn fillings. Temporary sensitivity can also occur in up to two-thirds of people who whiten their teeth, thanks to the bleaching agent peroxide, which can go through the enamel and irritate and inflame the tooth’s nerve. Luckily, you don’t have to just grin and bear it. Try these simple ways to reduce the sensations:

1. Brush with a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. These special toothpastes block sensation from the surface of your tooth to its nerve. These can also be helpful to use as you start a whitening treatment: In one study of toothpastes formulated with potassium nitrate, patients who used the toothpaste before and during whitening reported feeling less sensitivity than those who used regular toothpaste. And make sure the toothpaste also contains fluoride: Fluoride strengthens the enamel on your teeth (and it protects against cavities, too). You can also ask your dentist about applying fluoride gel at the time of bleaching if you’re having an in-office whitening procedure—one small study found that patients who received this treatment reported a lower intensity of sensitivity after whitening.

2. Avoid hot and cold drinks and food. When you’re eating, you may feel more sensitive to temperature extremes, so learn to love warm (not hot) coffee and skip the ice in your water. You may also want to try brushing your teeth with warm water until sensitivity subsides.

3. Steer clear of acidic drinks. Acidic drinks like sodas and certain fruit juices can erode enamel, which is no good for sensitivity. Same goes for acidic foods like citrus fruits. If you do eat or drink something acidic, wait an hour before brushing your teeth; the acid can soften the enamel, and brushing right afterward can irritate them. Rinse with water in the meantime.

4. Try an OTC pain reliever. A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like Advil can help relieve the pain of minor toothaches.

5. Pick up some sugar-free gum. One small study published in the British Dental Journal found that people who chewed gum after a whitening treatment reported less intense sensitivity after the procedure than those who didn’t chew gum. One theory as to why gum is protective: Chewing gum stimulates saliva production. Saliva contains minerals that protect enamel and may also block the tubes to the nerves, so they don’t feel as sensitive. Make sure you choose sugar-free so you don’t increase the risk of developing cavities.

Get more great health and wellness stories at EatingWell.com/Strive.