woman with tooth sensitivity

Do you dread brushing and flossing because it causes your teeth and gums to ache? Are ice cream and cold treats hard to eat? You may have tooth sensitivity. According to Consumer Reports, tooth sensitivity affects 35 percent of adults. There are many culprits to tooth sensitivity—from bad oral habits to diet. Here are a few that may be putting the “ouch” in your bite.

Acidic Foods and Drinks

Once the enamel on your teeth has thinned or your gums have receded, the pathway to your nerves, i.e., dentin, is exposed, leaving you sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, and to sweet and sour foods. To protect your teeth, avoid high-acid foods and beverages, such as vinegar, regular and diet sodas, tomato sauce, grapefruit, etc. Another way to thwart the pain is to couple acids with “neutralizing” foods such as cheese, milk, and water.

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, occurs for many reasons: stress, sleep disorders, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), etc. It affects 8 to 31 percent of the general population, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Orofacial Pain. Teeth grinding and clenching wears down the enamel on your teeth and exposes the underlying dentine root layer that leads directly to your nerves. Talk with your dentist about a custom-made mouth guard to prevent damage during the night to your teeth and gums.

Vigorous Brushing

Are you a bit overeager when it comes to brushing? Take a look at your toothbrush; if the bristles are spread out, chances are you’re either brushing too hard or the bristles are too hard. The problem with abrasive brushing is, overtime, it wears down the protective layers of your teeth, eventually exposing the canals that lead to your nerves, which cause sensitivity to high and low temperatures, and different foods and beverages. Fortunately, this is an easy fix. Switch to a soft-bristle tooth brush and reduce the amount of vigor and pressure you use while brushing.

Other causes include: gum disease, the aftermath of a dental surgery, use of tooth-whitening toothpaste, or chronic mouthwash use.