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So you have sensitive teeth. What toothbrush are you using?

My wife and I see around 2 or 3 patients a week suffering with sensitive teeth. Of course we have all experienced this at one time or another. It’s the reason why we look on in amazement when we see someone crunching on a mouth full of ice cubes. I’m sure they do it just to show off! It’s that sharp pain lasting just a few seconds when something cold (usually) hits sensitive teeth. Yes, there are a lot of reasons for this, but the clear front runner is due to overzealous tooth brushing. There are few things in life more annoying than your dentist telling you you’re brushing your teeth too much. How on earth is anyone supposed to calculate the correct amount of brushing?

It’s simply not practical to ask someone to completely change the way they brush their teeth. This function is now ingrained into your subconscious library along with washing your hands, driving your car and agreeing with your wife. The good news is that in most cases, changing your tooth brush will do the trick.

About a year ago I had 5 patients booked into my clinical session that were experiencing pain. It turned out that all 5 patients were suffering from sensitive teeth. I asked all of them what kind of tooth brush they used. All 5 patients reported that they use an electric toothbrush! In fact they all used the same brand of toothbrush. I really want to tell you which make it was but my wife won’t let me. She said I best not mention the make oral b in trouble. I know that this alone is not enough to prove that one causes the other but you can’t deny that it is one heck of a coincidence. In all fairness to the electric toothbrush, all 5 patients had very good oral hygiene but all 5 also displayed signs of abrasion. This is where the protective layer of the tooth, the enamel, had worn away at the gum line. The gum line had also receded slightly in this area. As a result the sensitive part of the tooth was exposed. Of course you don’t need an electric toothbrush to cause abrasion, it can easily be done with a medium or hard manual toothbrush.

There are a lot of sensitive toothpastes out there which will help this problem but not if the abrasive nature of the tooth brushing continues.

The answer is to use a softer toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes do provide attachments with softer bristles to help avoid this problem but my humble opinion is to get yourself a soft manual tooth brush. They are not easy to find. Most are medium bodied which in my opinion are still too abrasive and will have an “M” on the packaging. You are looking for a toothbrush with an “S” on the package for soft. My favourite is Wisdom Sensitive Defence toothbrush. It’s the softest I’ve used and is comparatively cheap compared to its competitors. Be warned! You are not going to like this tooth brush for a while. You are used to scrubbing your teeth like you’re cleaning greasy pots and pans. It’s satisfying to scrub your teeth as vigorously as you do at present and you will feel as if this soft brush is not cleaning them as well. This is the tough part for you because you are going to have to reset this part of your subconscious library. It only feels this way because this is how you’ve cleaned your teeth for years. I promise you there is no need to brush your teeth this hard. The only function that tooth brushing has is to remove plaque. It will not whiten your teeth, remove staining or tartar. A soft brush is actually more effective at removing plaque because it will access the areas between your teeth better than a medium or hard brush.

There is a good article on this subject in the Daily Mail:

Don’t panic if you see evidence of this in your mouth. A soft toothbrush, some sensitive toothpaste followed by some very simple and pain free dentistry will fix it.
Take care,
Gerwyn Rowlands

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