ARC Dental Health

Anyone who has dealt with the pain of a sensitive tooth knows it's no fun. To other people, you might be whining over nothing. But to you, cold sensitivity and the resulting tooth pain is impossible to ignore until it finally goes away.

Sometimes this happens because of a certain food, like ice cream, hitting your enamel the wrong way. If it's a regular thing, though, you could be dealing with sensitive teeth.

Tooth Sensitivity and You

If your teeth are sensitive to cold, they're probably also not going to feel too good if hot things touch them, either. Sensitive teeth act up when they're exposed to both hot and cold temperatures, such as cold air and heated beverages. Dental treatments can help, but what can you do while you're waiting for your appointment?

The first thing is to understand why your teeth hurt in the first place. Then, you can determine the right tooth sensitivity treatment for your needs.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Something to keep in mind when you have tooth sensitivity is that there's always an underlying reason for the pain. Yes, cold drinks or acidic foods could be the "cause" of the immediate discomfort. But there's a real problem with your oral health under the surface.

If you get to a dental appointment early, you may be able to fix the issue before further damage is done. The type of dental treatment you will need depends on the underlying cause of your sensitive teeth.

How Do You Know if You Have Sensitive Teeth?

Anyone who has had a reaction to cold beverages or hot coffee because of sensitive teeth describes the feeling as a shooting or sharp pain. It doesn't have to stay localized to the tooth and gums. Sometimes, the pain radiates and feels like a knife stabbed right into your brain. (Hence the term "brain freeze.")

In short, it's not fun.

When a tooth sensitive to cold or heat is exposed to that temperature, the hot and cold can cause a severe toothache. So, you need to know what's going on to figure out how to avoid the pain.

Common Reasons for Sensitive Teeth

If your tooth has temperature sensitivity, chances are, the enamel has been worn down over time. Enamel is the outer layer of a tooth, and it's the protective covering that keeps your nerve endings safe.

Made out of dentin, enamel can erode gradually because of tooth decay, gum recession, and other factors. Healthy teeth have this protective tooth layer naturally. But as dentin loses its strength, the tooth surface erodes. The end result is that your tooth enamel is sensitive to heat and cold foods.

Dentin contains small hollow tubes or canals. These microscopic tubules let the heat and cold into the nerves and cells in the tooth. The loss of dentin makes teeth sensitive. The question is, why is the dentin disappearing in the first place?

There are reasons for the enamel loss and other problems that could make your teeth sensitive to heat and cold, like:

  • cavities
  • early stages of tooth decay
  • teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • untreated gum disease
  • infection in the gum tissue causing receding gums and eventual tooth loss
  • using a toothbrush without soft bristles or products not approved by the American Dental Association
  • neglecting to avoid acidic foods
  • a tooth injury like a cracked tooth

While these are the most common reasons you may end up with sensitive teeth, it could also be from your daily habits. Using tobacco products and poor oral hygiene will cause sensitive dentin, gum disease, and loss of tooth enamel, too.

Treating Tooth Sensitivity

When you first notice the cold sensitivity or other sensations, there are a few at-home things you can do to see if it helps.

First, get a soft-bristled brush if you don't already have one. Stop using whitening toothpaste or any mouthwashes that are alcohol-based. These can be too harsh and will make your teeth sensitive. If those changes don't make a big difference, look for signs that you're grinding teeth in your sleep.

This will hurt both the enamel and your jaw. You may notice that you have a headache, neck, or shoulder pain for "no reason."

Treatment for Bruxism

If you do think you're grinding your teeth, contact a dental professional ASAP. This could be the result of stress, or you might need someone to provide medical advice about sleeping disorders. The dental office can limit the damage by offering enamel covers like mouth guards.

In the meantime, your medical doctor can help you come up with a treatment plan for your grinding, officially known as bruxism. There's an underlying cause that is making you grind and clench in your sleep, and if you don't find out what it is, it could be dangerous.

Basic Treatments for a Sensitive Tooth

The type of dental work you'll need to fix a sensitive tooth depends on the reason and how far gone the problem is.

The first step is prevention. Your dentist can work with you to change your oral hygiene habits and avoid further damage from happening. This starts by avoiding foods and beverages that are known to cause enamel loss, such as those with a lot of acid and sugar.

Then, you can use desensitizing toothpaste, brush regularly, and use floss and mouthwash to help protect your teeth and the gum line. But if you see your gums recede and the cold and heat sensitivity continues, it's time to move on to the next step.

Strengthening the Enamel

The enamel protects your roots and avoids exposure to the nerve endings that make your teeth sensitive. To reduce sensitivity, a fluoride gel may be suggested. Using this consistently strengthens tooth enamel and restores the protective layer that was damaged on your teeth. This can be completed through an in office technique during office hours, or at home with special products.

Root Canal Therapy

Tooth sensitivity caused by a cavity can be fixed with a sealant. But if your tooth has become sensitive to cold because of gum disease, you have receding gums, or your tooth roots are visible, you may need a root canal.

This procedure is a process in which the infection in the pulp of your teeth is cleaned out. When the gum line and tooth are no longer contaminated, the dentist will put a dental crown in to cover the visible roots.

Why is Your Tooth Sensitive? We Can Help.

Whether you need to stop your gum line from receding or avoid missing teeth from decay, a trip to the dentist is in order when your teeth are sensitive. Contact our office today to see how we can help you get or keep your oral health in optimal shape.

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