Sensitive teeth and braces: triggers, causes, and treatments

There’s a product out there for just about anything these days, and sensitive teeth are no exception. Wander the oral health aisle at your local supermarket or flip through the channels on your TV and you’re likely to find a variety of toothpaste aimed at anyone suffering from sensitive teeth! This is actually good news, though, since sensitive teeth affect as many as 1 in 8 Americans. If you’re a patient in braces and experiencing sensitive teeth, we’re here to tell you about the triggers, causes, and treatments!

No matter how common it is, we know how frustrating sensitivity can be. This is especially true for those wearing braces or clear aligners. Here at Lake Jackson Orthodontics, we see our fair share of patients dealing with this issue, and we’re here to help! If you’re in braces and struggle with sensitive teeth, keep reading to learn more about the underlying causes and how you can get some relief!

What causes sensitivity in the teeth?

There is no one contributing factor when it comes to teeth sensitivity, but it’s often caused by nerve endings becoming exposed. This can cause a lower tolerance for different foods and varying temperatures, as well as certain levels of pressure. The symptoms can range from a mild ache when eating ice cream to severe pain from simply biting down on something. In general, the sensitivity is most noticeable when the teeth:

  • are exposed to something hotter or colder than normal
  • are exposed to something sweeter or more sour than normal
  • have deep cavities or exposed root surfaces present

Thinning tooth enamel is also a leading cause of tooth sensitivity. Enamel is what helps to keep our teeth strong, but when we fail to properly remove plaque and bacteria, they can begin to break it down. Improper brushing and flossing techniques or poor oral hygiene, in general, can cause the enamel to thin out. This weakens the teeth over time, leaving them exposed and more susceptible to sensitivity.

On the flip side of that, brushing too vigorously can wear down the gum tissue over time, causing the gum line to recede. This reveals the more porous root surfaces and areas of the teeth that are not normally exposed. This kind of over-brushing is actually the most common cause of tooth sensitivity, and it can sometimes cause serious pain.

Teeth sensitivity in orthodontic patients

When an orthodontic patient experiences tooth sensitivity, it’s often due to pressure being placed on the teeth by their appliance. This is more common with traditional braces than clear aligners, especially following an adjustment appointment. These are regularly scheduled visits which can sometimes cause the teeth to change position, making them more susceptible to pain, discomfort, and sensitivity.

Sensitivity after an adjustment should only last a day or two, but we hate for patients to be uncomfortable, even temporarily! While we can’t guarantee that you’ll never feel a little achy or sore following a check-up, there are some things you can do to reduce your chances of sensitivity in your teeth. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to keep your teeth feeling strong and sensitivity to a minimum!

Find a good oral hygiene routine and stick to it

A solid dental hygiene routine should be a priority for all of us, but it’s especially important for orthodontic patients. It’s equally essential for anyone dealing with tooth sensitivity! Taking good care of your teeth and gums is often the first line of defense against all kinds of oral issues.

As someone in braces, you probably already know that it can be a bit of a challenge to keep your teeth completely clean. However, slacking on brushing and flossing can lead to worn enamel or sensitivity around the gum line. Build-ups of tartar and bacteria can also increase the risk of exposed nerves. A healthy mouth can reduce your risk of developing dental problems, including sensitivity!

So what happens if you develop tooth sensitivity despite your best efforts? First, choose a toothbrush that has soft bristles and brush gently but firmly to avoid any abrasions and gum recession. Certain kinds of toothpaste can help decrease nerve sensitivity, as well. Keep in mind that it can take a week or two of regular use to notice a difference in how sensitive your teeth are.

Take it back to the basics

Having braces put on or adjusted is one of the most common causes of discomfort in orthodontic patients. If you experience any pain or sensitivity due to an adjustment, be sure to speak with Dr. McGrory about over-the-counter pain relief. You can also try home remedies, like salt rinses. Simply dissolve a teaspoon or two of salt in a cup of warm water, then swish it around in your mouth a few times. This is a common and effective way to relieve oral discomfort!

If you do find yourself dealing with tooth sensitivity that persists for more than a few days, don’t hesitate to contact our team for additional advice. We’ll be happy to recommend further care, whether at home or in our office. In the meantime, follow these guidelines to help reduce the symptoms of sensitivity throughout your orthodontic journey.

  • Be vigilant about brushing and flossing thoroughly and regularly.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush gently.
  • Try toothpaste that’s been designed specifically for sensitive teeth (and give it at least two weeks to begin working!)
  • Make a saltwater rinse to combat discomfort.
  • Check-in with our office if sensitivity or pain persists.

Find a more comfortable smile with Lake Jackson Orthodontics

Don’t let sensitivity get in the way of a straighter smile! While modern orthodontic treatment is more comfortable than it’s ever been, you may still experience a bit of discomfort and sensitivity from time to time. Fortunately, this is almost always temporary and can often be easy to treat!

Having sensitive teeth shouldn’t get in the way of you enjoying life to the fullest, not even when you’re in braces. By making just a few minor adjustments to your oral hygiene routine, you’ll be able to reduce the chances of developing sensitive teeth while keeping your smile straight and healthy.

At the end of every orthodontic journey is a beautiful new smile, and the wait is worth it. If you need a little encouragement or advice, don’t hesitate to reach out! The expert team here at Lake Jackson Orthodontics wants your smile to succeed on every level. To learn more about combating sensitive teeth while you’re in braces, get in touch to schedule a follow-up appointment with Dr. McGrory. We’re here to help!