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The Real Reason Your Teeth Are Hurting

The Real Reason Your Teeth Are Hurting peculiarmagazine.com

You mean I have to do more than brush?

Feel pain in your pearly whites? Don’t rush to the dentist just yet. You could have over-sensitive teeth instead of a cavity, according to new research in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

Dentists examined more than 700 hurting patients to pinpoint the root of their pain, and found that 1 in 8 were suffering from tooth sensitivity. It happens when the enamel on the outside of your tooth, or the tissue between your tooth and gum, starts to wear away, says John M. Coke, D.D.S., professor of General Dentistry & Oral Medicine at the University of Alabama. That exposes tubes connecting the nerves inside your teeth, so any kind of stimulus on that nerve will register as pain, Dr. Coke says.

“You mean I have to do more than brush?”

The good news: You can make your chompers feel (and look) better. Just follow these four hard-and-fast rules:

1. Cut back on coffee and wine. Acidic foods—wine, citrus fruits, coffee, soda—tend to result in enamel erosion, Dr. Coke says. And without that protective outer layer, your teeth are bound to become much more sensitive.

2. Pick your paste wisely. Toothpastes that contain tartar-control, whitening agents, or baking-soda often have phosphates, which make teeth sensitive. Instead, find a good toothpaste that’s equipped with potassium nitrate, which blocks receptors that translate hot and cold signals into pain. We like Sensoclyne ProNamel iso-active ($5) because it’s also pH balanced to help prevent acid erosion.

3. Lay off the bleach. Whitening products also contain a hefty amount of abrasive ingredients, says Dr. Coke. So to avoid over-exposure, whiten no more than once every 6 months.

4. Swap out your equipment. Opt for a soft-bristled toothbrush. Dr. Coke says tougher bristles can cause receding gums, which can lead to nerve exposure—a.k.a. hooting pain.

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