Braces and Sensitive Teeth

Flip through the channels any time of day, and you are likely to find at least one commercial extolling the virtues of toothpastes for sensitive teeth. Clearly, sensitive teeth are a common occurrence. In fact, teeth sensitivity can affect as many as 1 in 8 people! There are various types and levels of sensitivity, but it is generally most noticeable when the teeth are exposed to something hotter or colder than normal, something sweeter or more sour than normal, or if there are deep cavities or exposed root surfaces present. No matter how common this issue is, Brodsky Orthodontics knows how frustrating it can be for orthodontic patients who are in braces. If you are a braces patient who suffers from sensitive teeth, keep reading for more information on the underlying causes and some helpful suggestions for relief.

What causes sensitivity in the teeth?

There is no one contributing factor when it comes to teeth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity can come from just about anywhere and can range from mild aching when eating cold ice cream or drinking hot coffee to severe pain from something as simple as biting down. In general, this is caused by nerve endings becoming exposed, which causes a lower tolerance for varying foods, temperatures, and pressure.

Thinning tooth enamel can also cause tooth sensitivity. Enamel is what helps keep your teeth strong, and a failure to remove plaque and bacteria from building up can eventually begin to break it down. Whether due to improper brushing and flossing techniques or poor oral hygiene, the thinning or loss of enamel can weaken your teeth, leaving them exposed and more susceptible to sensitivity. Conversely, brushing too vigorously can wear down gum tissue over time, causing the gum line to recede, which in turn 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.

When an orthodontic patient finds themselves suffering from sensitivity, it is often due to pressure placed on the teeth by the braces. Regularly scheduled adjustments can also be a culprit, albeit a temporary one. Adjustments cause teeth to change position, which can make them more susceptible to pain and discomfort, as well as extra sensitivity. Fortunately, this is easy to treat at home, and should not last more than a day or two after an appointment. Our team here hates to see patients uncomfortable, even if it is temporary. Although we cannot guarantee you will never feel a little achy or sore, we want to help you reduce any chances for tooth sensitivity you can, leaving you with a happier smile and a more pleasant treatment experience. Let us take a look at what you can do to keep your teeth feeling strong and sensitivity to a minimum!

Stick to a good oral hygiene routine

Having a dental hygiene routine is important for everyone, but especially critical for both braces patients and those who suffer from tooth sensitivity. No matter the cause of it, taking care of your teeth and mouth will be your first line of defense against oral issues of any kind. If you wear braces, you will know that it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge to keep your teeth completely clean, but a failure to do so can lead to worn enamel or sensitivity around the gumline. Being vigilant about proper brushing and flossing also helps prevent the buildup of tartar and bacteria, reducing the risk of exposing nerves. You should choose a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush gently but firmly to avoid any abrasions and gum recession. If you already deal with tooth sensitivity on a regular basis, there are toothpastes which work to decrease nerve sensitivity. The key is to use it for at least two weeks – it will likely take at least this long to notice a decrease in how sensitive your teeth are.

Back to braces basics

For many braces wearers, the actual placing of braces or a change in orthodontic care is one of the most common cause for discomfort. If you are experiencing any pain or sensitivity due to an orthodontic adjustment, ask one of our doctors about taking an over the counter pain reliever. For at-home remedies, rinsing your mouth with warm salt water is a time-tested and effective way to relieve discomfort. Simply dissolve a teaspoon or two of salt in about eight ounces of warm water, then swish in your mouth once or twice. If you do find yourself with sensitivity that persists more than a few days, give us a call for additional advice. We will be able to recommend further care, whether at home or in our office, or we may suggest scheduling an appointment with your general dentist.

Remember braces basics and avoid eating anything that is hard, crunchy, or sticky. Nuts, popcorn, and gum can not only cause pain, they are often responsible for broken brackets and bent wires. To help prevent unnecessary discomfort, avoid hard, crunchy, or sticky foods. Things like nuts, taffy, gum or biting into an apple not only causes pain but can dislodge brackets and other orthodontic care. If your teeth are feeling particularly sensitive after an adjustment, consider sticking to soft foods for a day or two. Smoothies or soup can be soothing, and who needs an excuse to eat ice cream?!

Want a recap of recommendations from Brodsky Orthodontics on how to reduce sensitivity and care for your smile while wearing braces?

  • Be vigilant about brushing and flossing thoroughly and regularly
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush when brushing
  • Try toothpaste made specifically for sensitive teeth, and give it at least two weeks to begin working
  • Make your own salt water rinse to combat discomfort
  • If sensitivity or pain persists, check with one of our doctors about OTC pain relievers
  • Contact our office if you experience any extreme pain or sensitivity
  • Avoid any hard, crunchy, or sticky foods that can damage your braces or cause further irritation
  • Stick to softer foods or cold treats like smoothies and ice cream to help reduce discomfort

Staying the course to a straighter smile with Brodsky Orthodontics

Although modern orthodontic treatment is more comfortable than ever, you may still experience some slight discomfort and sensitivity from time to time. The good news is that this is almost always temporary and easily treatable! Having sensitive teeth should not stop you from enjoying life to the fullest, even as a braces patient. Making just a few minor adjustments in your oral hygiene routine and always remembering the basics of braces care will help reduce sensitive teeth and keep your teeth strong and healthy. Brodsky Orthodontics is always here to encourage you, cheer you on, and remind you that at the end of every orthodontic journey is a beautiful new smile. The wait is worth it!