We can feel it here in New England… the sun is shining, spring has sprung, and ice cream season is upon us, yum. That’s right – we’re coming for you, Dairy Witch & Melt! All cravings aside, with the warmer weather comes colder foods. While refreshing treats like ice cream, popsicles, smoothies and more can be so very enjoyable, many of us also live with tooth sensitivities that make it difficult to truly indulge in this category of deliciousness. Cold foods aren’t alone in causing tooth discomfort; hot foods can exacerbate tooth sensitivity, too.
So let’s take a look at what can trigger tooth sensitivity and how you can manage this category of temporary mouth pain:
Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
If you have sensitive teeth, you’re likely well aware of the feeling. Regular activities like eating, drinking, brushing and flossing can lead to temporary pain in your teeth, albeit sharp pain. But why is this happening? Tooth sensitivity is typically caused by worn tooth enamel or exposed tooth roots, but here are a few other reasons that you may be experiencing tooth sensitivity:
- Cavity: If you experience a sensitivity that lingers after you’ve eaten cold or hot foods, then it could be a potential sign that you have a cavity. As the enamel on your tooth wears away, it can affect the hard tissue layer below the enamel (also known as ‘dentin’).
- Cracked/Chipped Tooth: If a nerve is exposed inside of a chipped tooth, then you will likely notice increased tooth sensitivity and pain when chewing or when the chipped tooth is exposed to very hot or very cold foods/liquids. When you’ve chipped one of the pointed chewing surfaces on your back teeth, it’s known as a broken cusp.
- Worn Filling: A worn-down filling or crown can expose the tooth’s dentin, which will lead to sensitivity. The good news here is that your sensitivity will typically be isolated to that one tooth or region rather than span your entire mouth.
- Grinding Your Teeth: As you grind your teeth, you create tiny cracks in the enamel of your teeth over time. This can lead to major tooth sensitivity if left unchecked and untreated.
- Gum Disease: Inflamed or sore gum tissue can cause tooth sensitivity because of the loss of supporting ligaments, which exposes the root surface that leads directly to the nerve of the tooth. Once the dentin is exposed, tooth sensitivity is typically triggered.
Tooth Sensitivity Treatment & Prevention
While tooth sensitivity does have the potential to lead to serious oral health issues, it is typically a treatable type of oral discomfort. We would, of course, recommend that you visit your dentist with ongoing tooth sensitivity issues.
Here are some other treatment and prevention options:
- Maintain a regular oral care routine: This includes brushing twice per day and flossing at least once per day.
- Use a desensitizing toothpaste: We would recommend a product like Sensodyne that has a low-abrasive rating (RDA rating below 70) and one that contains an adequate amount of fluoride and desensitizing medications.
- Avoid foods that trigger sensitivity: If you’ve been living with tooth sensitivity for a while, then you probably know which foods inflict the most intense amount of pain and discomfort. Do your best to avoid these triggers.
- Fluoride treatment: By applying fluoride to the sensitive areas of your teeth, your dentist can help you to strengthen your tooth enamel & reduce pain sensations. Prescription fluoride to use at home may also be an option.
- Bonding: Exposed root surfaces can sometimes be treated by applying bonding resin; in this situation, a local anesthetic might be needed.
As always, we encourage you to contact us with any tooth sensitivity issues or concerning oral health issues in general. We’re here to field your questions and provide you with the best dental care possible!