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1 in 8 Adults May Have Sensitive Teeth

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The researchers found that adults between 18 and 44 were 3.5 times more likely than older adults to have sensitive teeth, possibly because the material inside the tooth called dentin gets thicker over time, providing more insulation, said Marilynn Rothen, a study co-author and lead regional coordinator for the network of dental practices in the study, called Northwest Practice-based Research Collaborative in Evidence-based Dentistry.

Women were 1.8 times more likely than men to have the condition, the study also found. However, it is not clear if women are more likely to have sensitive teeth or if they are just more willing to report pain, Cunha-Cruz said.

Additional risk factors for sensitive teeth in the study were having receding gums, which can expose the tubes in the inside of the tooth like loss of enamel can, and performing at-home tooth whitening.

"You are making teeth whiter using chemicals that change the physical structure of the tooth and can probably open the [tubes]," Rothen said.

Cunha-Cruz noted that "the important thing is to be aware that this might happen if you whiten your teeth." But, she added, "if you stop the treatment, it will usually go away."

Contrary to the view held by many dentists, the study did not find that people who were aggressive tooth brushers were more likely to experience sensitive teeth, Cunha-Cruz said.

Still, Trushkowsky recommends that "brushing with a soft brush and not using it horizontally, like a weed whacker," could help reduce your risk of developing sensitive teeth.

In addition, drinking water immediately after having acidic food or drink, such as fruit, orange juice, wine or coffee, and avoiding brushing for 10 or 15 minutes could help prevent sensitive teeth, Trushkowsky said.

Wearing a mouth guard at night if you grind your teeth could also help prevent wearing down the enamel that can lead to sensitive teeth, Trushkowsky suggested.

For her part, Rothen said sensitive teeth is a "significant problem because it is difficult to treat and we do not have a good treatment for it."

Over-the-counter toothpastes for sensitive teeth, such as Sensodyne and Colgate's Sensitive Pro-Relief, can sometimes help treat the condition, Trushkowsky said.

If patients do not get relief from special toothpastes, more invasive treatments include fillings, a bonding agent to seal the tooth, or grafting new gum tissue in the case of receding gums, he said.

More information

Learn more about dental health at the American Dental Association.

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

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American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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