A tall glass of ice water, a steaming hot cup of coffee, and your favorite wintertime soup may all be refreshing treats in themselves — but what if you cannot enjoy them because of your sensitive teeth? If hot and cold temperatures make your teeth ache, the problem may be a minor issue that is relatively easy to manage. But it is also possible that you are headed for a dental emergency. Let’s discuss what causes sensitive teeth and how your dentist can help you find relief.
Why Teeth Hurt
Teeth have multiple layers. The outmost layer, the enamel, is the hardest substance in the human body. Its job is to protect the layers beneath it. In some cases, though, the enamel is unable to do its job properly. Then, hot and cold substances can contact the dentin, the second layer of a tooth. The dentin contains microscopic tubes, called tubules. The tubules connect to the tooth’s nerve. Hence, when hot and cold substances contact the tubules, the nerve sends pain signals to the brain.
Causes of Sensitive Teeth
Why might the enamel be unable to protect the teeth? There are several possible reasons:
- Genetics have caused the tooth enamel to be naturally thin.
- The enamel has become worn down due to teeth grinding or overexposure to sugary and acidic substances.
- A tooth is broken or chipped.
- Gum recession, due to gum disease or other factors has exposed the roots of the teeth, which have no enamel to protect them.
- A cavity has developed, and it is deep enough to expose the dentin.
- An infection has infiltrated a tooth’s inner layers and caused inflammation, which is affecting the tooth’s nerve.
How to Find Relief
Your first step in finding relief from tooth sensitivity should be a visit to your dentist. They will examine your teeth and pinpoint the reason for your discomfort. Then, they will recommend a suitable treatment. In some cases, something as simple as switching to a sensitivity-reducing toothpaste may be all that is necessary. In other cases, a filling, crown, or periodontal therapy may be necessary.
If your sensitivity is focused in one tooth, and the pain lingers even after the source of the temperature change is removed, you should seek help from an emergency dentist right away. You may have a serious infection that, left untreated, could lead to systemic illness. Root canal therapy may be able to relieve your pain, save your tooth from extraction, and protect your overall health.
You should be able to enjoy your favorite hot and cold foods and beverages without worrying that they will cause you pain. If you are experiencing dental sensitivity, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
About the Author
Dr. Erick Anderson is an experienced, accomplished, and empathetic dentist who is proud to serve the Colorado Springs community. He offers general, preventive, and emergency care. If you would like to speak to him about how you can find relief from sensitive teeth, contact our office at 719-593-0988.