During this pandemic we’re all doing our best to stay well. Staying home, “Social Distancing”, washing hands, not touching faces, getting plenty of sleep and fluids, and eating a healthy diet are the most-touted pieces of advice by respected health sources. They make sense! One recommendation may have an unwanted side effect though.
During this difficult time some of us are also choosing to take extra vitamins, including Vitamin C. While Vitamin C is generally considered safe for most people to take, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many other sources indicate that there is no clear evidence that Vitamin C is helpful for prevention or cure of COVID-19. However, there are studies indicating Vitamin C deficiency seems to be correlated with people being more susceptible to infections and pneumonia, and also with having a lowered immune response.
So for those who do choose to take Vitamin C as part of their fight against coronavirus, it may be helpful to know that one little-known but common side effect of taking Vitamin C can be Tooth Sensitivity: a brief sharp pain that often happens when a person eats or drinks something very cold or hot.
The causes of sensitive teeth can include a cavity, cracked tooth, broken filling, teeth grinding, gum disease, receding gums, or worn enamel. Another cause of this sensitivity can be acid erosion. Acid erosion happens when the enamel of a tooth is exposed to acidic food or drink, stomach acid, or things such as Vitamin C – particularly if it’s the chewable kind. This acidity can cause the enamel to lose minerals and soften. While this softening can be temporary, if the tooth enamel is repeatedly exposed to acid it will gradually erode to leave the underlying dentin exposed and nerves irritated.
What You Can Do
If your tooth sensitivity becomes constant, painful, or you experience swelling or other additional symptoms, call us to discuss before it becomes worse. If your sensitivity remains mild, and you tend to eat or drink acidic things – or you’re taking Vitamin C – there are options you can try to gain some relief and also help prevent additional enamel erosion and future problems:
- Reduce your intake of acidic drinks such as sport drinks, fruit juices, etc., and drink them quickly or use a straw to limit the amount of time the liquid lingers on your teeth. Swish your mouth with water afterward.
- If you are chewing Vitamin C, consider switching to a different form of C that doesn’t remain in your mouth so long. Also swish with plain water afterward, or even swish water with a little baking soda mixed in it – and then spit it out.
- Avoid acidic foods, drinks and vitamins right before bed or while exercising when you produce less cleansing saliva.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, and brush more gently.
- Switch to a toothpaste made specifically for sensitive teeth.
- Avoid tooth-whitening treatments, which often increase sensitivity.
- Talk with us. There’s a possibility your pain may be caused by high spots or teeth grinding. This is far more common than you may think, and we may be able to help alleviate your pain with simple remedies.
Dry Mouth and Tooth Sensitivity
A constant flow of saliva is our natural defense against acid erosion and tooth sensitivity. However, some prescription medications as well as over-the-counter medications such as decongestants can cause dry mouth. Incidentally, dry mouth is also a risk factor for other serious concerns including oral cancer (see our post on oral cancer for more information). Staying hydrated with pure water is a good first step. If dry mouth is a continued issue for you, be sure to let us know. There are helpful products that can bring relief to this dryness, and we’ve found that some products are more effective for our patients than others. Keep in mind that mouth dryness can have serious consequences so it’s not something to simply dismiss!
The Bottom Line
We all want to do everything we possibly can to keep our families and ourselves healthy. But sometimes our efforts to be safe in one area of life can cause problems in other areas, as in the case of chewing Vitamin C. It’s tempting to try the many suggested home remedies we hear or read about on the internet, but these ideas can be unhealthy or even dangerous. The wisest thing to do is to stick with respected sources for information, such as the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Teuscher Legacy Health Blog, and, of course, call your physician and/or call us when you need individualized advice and questions answered. We are always happy to help.