Have you ever enjoyed a hot a cup of coffee on a chilly morning or savored a flavorful slushie in the summer heat, when suddenly you got a sharp jolt of pain in your teeth? It can be enough to make you think twice about having that next sip. If your teeth are sensitive to hot and cold, you might be in danger of more than just not being able to enjoy one of your favorite beverages. It could be your first warning sign of an underlying problem severe enough to send you to an emergency dentist! Read on to learn the most common causes and what to do about sensitive teeth.
What Causes Sensitivity?
The inner nerve of your tooth is surrounded by a soft pulp. The pulp is coated in a delicate material called dentin and encased in a hard shell of enamel. Experiencing pain means there is a breach in the enamel or gums and the nerve is exposed, perhaps from:
- Gum Disease. An infection from plaque buildup can cause the gums to recede and reveal the roots of your teeth. If left untreated, the bacteria will destroy the structures that anchor your teeth in place and cause them to fall out.
- A cracked tooth or filling. A fissure or crack on the surface of your tooth can reveal the sensitive layer of dentin underneath or create a pathway down to the nerve.
- Enamel Erosion. Tooth grinding, acidic beverages, and overaggressive brushing can all weaken and damage the protective case of enamel over time.
What You Can Do About It
If you notice tooth sensitivity to hot or cold, stop using teeth whitening products right away, including teeth whitening toothpaste and mouthwash, which can weaken your enamel. Most importantly, see your dentist right away. Tooth sensitivity and the underlying problems that can cause it are a serious matter. Your dentist can alleviate the sensitivity by:
- Administering a fluoride gel that slightly desensitizes the area and strengthens enamel.
- Cleaning out the harmful bacteria infecting gums and creating cavities, then using a sealant to protect against future infections.
- Performing a root canal if the root is severely damaged so that the infected structures can be removed entirely.
If you notice your favorite hot coffee or chilly slushie is causing you pain, you could be headed towards a dental emergency. Don’t wait to see an emergency dentist: get regular dental checkups every six months to catch any problems as early impossible and get back to enjoying your favorite drinks!
About the Author
Dr. Nicholas Brong is a graduate of the University of California in San Francisco who currently practices in Rochester, MN at Zumbro Family Dental. He is passionate about helping his patients achieve and maintain happy, healthy smiles, which is why he offers a variety of preventive dentistry services to catch dental issues before they become emergencies. If you’d like to know more about tooth sensitivity, he can be reached at his website or by (507) 288-1066.