I can’t tell you how many times I have had people come into the dental office with the complaint that their teeth hurt when they brush or drink cold drinks.
Why is this problem happening?
It could be that there are some exposed roots which are typically very sensitive.
Or the answer may be as simple as brushing at the wrong time every day.
What does that have to do with sensitivity?
Every time you put something in your mouth that has sugar, carbohydrates, or acid in it, it changes things in your mouth.
Have you ever heard of the pH scale?
The pH scale goes from 1 to 14 and rates how acidic something is. Your teeth begin to dissolve if the pH gets to be more acidic, at about 5.5, which is just below the neutral level of 7.
Here is a list of common foods and drinks on a pH scale:
Notice how many are below neutral, or on the left of the chart. Those closer to a 1 or on the left side of the chart are not so good for your teeth. Those that are above 7, or neutral, or on the right of the chart, are more basic and not as bad for the teeth.
Now the part I want to get to is about your time of brushing.
After you have eaten something with a lower pH it lowers the pH of your mouth. When your mouth’s pH has dropped, the very worst thing to do is to brush your teeth.
Well, a lower pH means your mouth is more acidic, and when you have acid all over your teeth and you brush, it will disrupt or wear the tooth cells more. Do that over and over and over again and it will errode the tooth, especially at the gumline where the tooth is very vulnerable.
At the 2018 Utah Dental Convention, Dr. Wyatt Rory Hume, Dean of the University of Utah School of Dentistry, discussed his findings on this very subject. He has followed research done with children in New Zealand regarding pH and how to prevent cavities and sensitivity. He suggests that instead of brushing right after every meal, it is best to brush when there is no acid on your teeth. You get a better absorbtion of minerals from your remineralizing toothpaste in the enamel when you have a basic mouth and no acids present. There is only one safe time a day that fits the bill, and that is first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything.
Dr. Hume cautions brushing after every meal, that it actually makes you more sensitive and does more damage to your teeth than good.
Instead, he suggests getting up every morning, go in the bathroom, and do a very thorough brush with your remineralizing toothpaste before eating and drinking. Then bacteria around your teeth are reduced, your teeth are remineralized, and they are ready for a day of acid exposure.
Now what you can do after you eat so your teeth don’t feel gross?
I would suggest flossing, or blotting, or tooth picking to get out food particles stuck between your teeth. To neutralize acids in your mouth I would rinse your mouth out for a minute with one tablespoon baking soda and a little water (it’s very salty-tasting but is very effective).
Dr. Hume suggests chewing something hard, like celery, carrots, apples, cucumbers, peppers…..you get the idea. Or chew some xyiltol sweetened gum for a few minutes.
What does that do?
The chewing motion starts your glands producing more saliva. That watery liquid washes over the teeth, neutralizes the acids, and raises the pH in your mouth. Saliva protects your teeth against acids from foods and bacteria and replaces lost minerals in the teeth.
But the pH doesn’t return to it’s normal level for hours, perhaps even the rest of the day according to Dr. Hume, and so it is important not to run a toothbrush or toothpaste, which acts like sandpaper to your teeth, until the pH is high again.
In conclusion, to reduce gum sensitivity and have stronger teeth, Dr. Hume suggests brushing only in the morning and not brushing the rest of the day. Only brushing once a day is debatable, especially if you are trying to stay on top of active infections in your mouth when it’s important to disrupt the plaque and biofilm more often. I would suggest consulting with your dental professional who knows your mouth best for a recommendation. Personally, I brush twice a day but I try not to brush at night unless it has been two to three hours since I have eaten. If it hasn’t been very long since I have eaten I will only use my water pik and floss, and then do a thorough brush the next morning.