Why Does My Tooth Hurt? Part 5: Tooth Sensitivity

Is eating ice cream an impossible task for you? Is sipping on an ice cold drink something you vaguely remember doing long time ago? If so, you may have a real problem: tooth sensitivity.

What is tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity manifests itself as sharp pain in certain teeth, usually when cold or hot stimuli are applied to the teeth. This includes breathing in cold air, eating or drinking hot, cold, sweet or sour food. Although sometimes difficult to discern from other types of pain in the gums, teeth and/or the jaw area, tooth sensitivity can be effectively and successfully treated by the dentist or the dental specialists. Unlike other causes of pain in the head and neck area, the pain resulting from tooth sensitivity can be simply disregarded (or ignored) by avoiding the stimulus. This often leads to very delayed treatment of such problems. As with other causes of tooth pain, the sensitivity of the teeth should not be disregarded as it may lead to more complications and more pain.


What causes tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is very common. Most of the time, when decay or crack in the teeth are not causing the problem, the sensitivity of teeth is caused by the removal of the outer, protective layer of the tooth, called enamel. Once enamel is very thin or not existent, the layer of the tooth that lies underneath is exposed. This part of the tooth, called dentin, contains the nerves that link to the inside of the tooth. Any stimulus applied to the nerve endings will cause tooth pain. The causes of enamel removal, especially around the neck of the teeth, are:

  • Periodontal (gum) disease
  • Aggressive brushing technique
  • Hard Tooth Brush.
  • Clenching or grinding
  • Other anatomical factors in the mouth, such as high insertion of some muscles
  • Orthodontic treatment-braces. Sometimes, braces can cause teeth to move in the direction of the gum, exposing more root surface and causing gum recession
  • Food or drinks that are high in acid. Sucking on a lemon, drinking very acidic drinks for prolonged periods of times can cause gum recession
  • Chewing on pencils, rubbing objects over the gums can also cause gum recession
  • Oral piercings, especially tongue, lip or cheek piercings can ‘brush away” the gum over teeth, causing gum recession and tooth sensitivity
  • Other less frequent reasons

How to Detect It?

Sensitivity of teeth is usually not very difficult to detect as the actual symptom occurs when different stimuli are applied to the tooth or teeth in question. It is a good idea to try to actually discern the actual tooth in question even before coming to the dentist, as this may help facilitate the diagnosis and allow for more precise treatment down the line. Looking in the mirror and trying to figure out if the gums have receded is also a helpful thing to do as the presence of gum recession may help the dentist determine the cause of teeth sensitivity more precisely and actually treat the problem. Of course, a visit to the dental office is highly recommended since some of the causes of the actual tooth sensitivity may actually be cracked tooth or decay and the pain you are experiencing may become more severe and more permanent in duration and nature, which in turn may lead to more severe complications.

What to Do About It?

All sensitive teeth can be treated. Usually, the dentist will determine the cause of the sensitivity of the teeth. If the reason for sensitivity is gum recession, the dentist will determine if there is any indication for referral to a specialist, or other treatment options are available. The treatment may be more complex and involve several procedures and multiple visits, as the cause of the tooth sensitivity often is multifactorial as well. These treatments include, but are not limited to:

  • Oral hygiene instructions. Your dentist will work with you to choose the right type of tooth brush, tooth paste and help you adjust your brushing technique
  • Most of the time, when the recession and sensitivity is not that severe, the dentist may recommend a desensitizing toothpaste. This type of toothpaste contains special compounds that help block the nerve stimulus, which should travel from the tooth surface to the inside of the tooth (the nerve). These types of products require more prolonged use in order to exert their effect on the tooth sensitivity.
  • Dentists have other solutions at their disposal that can be used in the dental chair. There are stronger desensitizing dental products that can be applied in a form of a gel, paste, or resin, by the dentist. A fluoride gel or special desensitizing agent are typical in-office products used in everyday dental practice to treat tooth sensitivity.
  • Sometimes, the dentist may recommend a filling, a crown or even a root canal treatment to treat more advanced cases of tooth sensitivity.
  • Also your dentist may determine that a referral to a gum specialist may be needed in order to correct the gum recession. Gum specialists, also known as periodontists, typically utilize surgical procedures to cover gum recession.

Tooth sensitivity is a very is a common cause for tooth pain. At Imperial Dental Center, our experienced dental team lead by Dr. Angelova is happy to provide you with the latest technological solutions to treat tooth sensitivity as we use only the highest quality products to treat this problem. When needed, Dr. Angelova collaborates with some of the most accomplished periodontists in the profession, in order to properly diagnose and treat your tooth sensitivity.

Imperial Dental Center 281-265-3567