Dental Tips Blog


Dealing With Sensitive Teeth

Posted in Crowns

Sometimes, different  foods or liquids may cause tooth sensitivity.  Tooth sensitivity is often described as all over tooth pain when eating or drinking hot or cold beverages or foods.  Sometimes the pain can be caused from sweet foods, or even exposure to very cold air. This pain almost immediately goes away when you have swallowed and stopped eating or drinking.

There are many different causes of tooth sensitivity.  Things such as tooth decay, broken or fractured teeth, old fillings that need to be replaced, gum disease or exposed roots may all be the cause of tooth sensitivity.  Sometimes, tooth sensitivity is a result of the aging process.  Tooth sensitivity can also be caused from exposure of the dentin, a layer on the tooth that is designed to help protect the teeth.  Grinding of your teeth can also be a cause for tooth sensitivity.  Depending on the cause of the tooth sensitivity, a treatment plan can be developed to help minimize or eliminate pain.

In cases of tooth decay or cavities, filling the cavities almost always helps eliminate sensitivity and pain.  Broken teeth can be restored using a dental crown, and old fillings that are ‘loose’ can be replaced.  Gum disease can be treated through scaling or other means;  all of these treatments have been shown to be effective in treating tooth sensitivity.

If your teeth are sensitive, you should make an appointment to see your dentist. While waiting for the appointment, try eating softer foods and drinks that are at a moderate temperature.  A toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth may also help during this time.


Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity can make everyday things like tooth brushing or drinking iced tea nearly unbearable. Different types of tooth sensitivity tell you and your dentist different things. While some sensitivity is normal, others may be a red flag for underlying dental problems.

Cold Sensitivity – This symptom is often caused by gum recession, toothbrush abrasion from aggressive brushing, tooth grinding, or teeth whitening.

Sweet – Sensitivity to sweet is typically a classic symptom of tooth decay. If the sensation happens several times, please see your dentist in order to treat the cavity while it is still small. 

Hot – When a tooth is sensitive to heat, there is a likely chance that the tooth has had nerve damage or infection requiring root canal therapy.

Pressure – Swelling around the root of the tooth due to trauma, fractures or abscess can cause pain when chewing or pressure is applied to the tooth.

Other factors that contribute to tooth sensitivity include conditions such as an acidic diet, uncontrolled GERD, and fractured teeth. When sensitivity persists, it is important to seek dental care to address the condition as early as possible. Dental treatment often becomes more invasive and costly the longer it is delayed.

When sensitivity is suspect due to products such as whitening toothpastes or whitening gels, most dentists recommend using desensitizing toothpaste such as Sensodyne. Over about two weeks of daily use, these toothpastes help block the pores on the tooth surface that are sensitive to cool food or mechanical action like tooth brushing. Discontinuing the use of desensitizing toothpaste will allow for the symptoms to return. Over the counter fluoride rinses are also helpful.


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