Sensitive teeth are an issue for many adults. It’s the sudden, sharp flash of pain when teeth are exposed to air, cold, sweet, acidic or hot foods. It’s the discomfort while brushing teeth, either due to the friction or the cold water of rinsing, or the flashes of pain and weird sensations while flossing teeth. Children are also prone to tooth sensitivity, and it can be harder to diagnose and treat.

What dentists call “dentin hypersensitivity” can be temporary or a chronic problem, and it can affect one tooth, several teeth, or all the teeth in a single child. There are different causes of tooth sensitivity, but in most cases, it’s easily treated with a change in the child’s oral hygiene regimen.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

Some people naturally have more sensitive teeth than others because their teeth have thinner enamel. Enamel is the outer layer of the tooth that’s there to protect the sensitive inner parts. Sensitive teeth are often the result of worn-down tooth enamel, which can happen when the child’s teeth are brushed too hard, too stiff a toothbrush is used, or the child’s diet is too heavy in acidic foods and beverages. In some cases, the enamel is worn down because the child grinds his or her teeth in the night. (If this is the case, seek advice from a pediatric dentist.) Additionally, the enamel is often thin when teeth first appear, so younger children with new teeth are susceptible to sensitivity.

What Can Parents Do About Tooth Sensitivity?

One option is to use toothpaste specifically made for sensitive teeth, though you should always consult with a dentist before allowing a child under age 12 to use a desensitizing product. If it’s the toothpaste causing the discomfort, switch to an unflavored toothpaste or use a clean washcloth or piece of gauze to gently wipe your child’s sensitive teeth. Have the child avoid too-hot or too-cold beverages and food, and cut down on acidic foods such as fruit juices, or beverages that can harm enamel, such as carbonated soft drinks.

In addition, many children are using toothbrushes that are too hard for them. Soft toothbrushes are the most effective for cleaning children’s teeth, with extra-soft preferred for younger children. Gentle care will keep your child’s teeth clean and avoid wearing off critical tooth enamel.

Consult with a Pediatric Dentist

Pediatric dentists are the professionals of choice for parents today, as they are especially skilled and equipped to understand children’s dental needs and respond to issues such as tooth sensitivity. In Connecticut, pediatric dentists like CT Pediatric Dentistry can ensure that children’s dental needs are met and the procedures are comfortable and calming. To contact CT Pediatric Dentistry, call 860-523-4213 in West Hartford; 860-456-0506 in North Windham; or 860-673-3900 in Unionville, or visit our web site.