We don’t often think about how horrible tooth pain can be until real dental pain strikes — then it’s pretty much all you can think about. It’s pretty upsetting when you go to enjoy a cold sip of water on a really hot day or take a gulp of piping hot cocoa during a snowstorm only to recoil in pain. That pain is called tooth sensitivity and it can strike when you least expect it, even from just breathing in cold air during the winter.
What are Sensitive Teeth?
Sensitive teeth are characterized by tooth pain or tingling when exposed to certain things, including eating and drinking hot or cold food and drink, exposure to cold winter air, and eating sugary or sour candy or food. The pain can be temporary and come and go with temperature changes.
The length of the time you feel pain in your tooth after exposing it to hot or cold temperatures indicates how severe the problem is. Pain that lasts 15 seconds or less is likely not very serious, though you should still make an appointment to see your dentist to make sure. You might have a small cavity, a little bit of gum disease, or possibly a loose filling.
Pain that lasts longer than 30 seconds indicates a more serious issue, as it’s likely that the internal tissue or pulp of your tooth has become damaged due to infection, decay, or trauma of some kind. This will require an appointment with your dentist to ensure that the problem doesn’t become worse and that the pain doesn’t quickly become unbearable.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Sensitive teeth are caused when your tooth’s porous tissue called dentin becomes exposed. Normally, dentin is protected by healthy gums and enamel, but when the dentin is exposed, microscopic holes in the dentin called tubules are irritated. Tubules are connected directly to the tooth nerve and the irritation caused by hot and cold temperatures are what cause tooth sensitivity and pain.
So how does the dentin become exposed in the first place? There are a few ways:
Gum Disease and Receding Gums
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is often a contributing factor to the weakening of enamel and exposing the dentin. It’s normally caused by poor dental hygiene.
Bruxism, or Teeth Grinding
Jaw clenching or grinding your teeth while you sleep can cause a lot of problems and pain, including headaches, jaw pain, stress fractures, and can lead to tooth sensitivity.
Fractured or Chipped Teeth
Teeth that have had their integrity compromised either through fractures or chips will be at a higher risk for exposing the dentin and more likely to cause pain.
Over-Brushing and Age
Over time your enamel will start to wear down, exposing the dentin. Over-brushing your teeth or brushing too hard can speed up this process.
How Can I Treat My Sensitive Teeth?
Depending on the severity of the damage causing your tooth sensitivity, your dentist will recommend several different treatments to help you combat your pain. A softer toothbrush or an electric one will help you prevent yourself from damaging your gums; a fluoride treatment will help your teeth protect themselves; a fluoride gel or rinse at home will help manage your sensitivity, and using a sensitivity toothpaste can all help your sensitive teeth. Additionally, you can help your teeth by avoiding sugary foods that cause acid to accumulate on your teeth and gums which eat away at your protective enamel.
If your case is severe enough, your dentist might recommend a root canal to fully address the problem.
Contact Sninski & Schmitt About Your Sensitive Teeth Today
There’s no need to suffer the pain of sensitive teeth, in fact, it’s better not to! Contact Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry today to make an appointment and successfully rid yourself of tooth sensitivity. Call us at 919-600-6262 (Holly Springs), 919-467-2203 (Cary), or fill out the form below.