All of us are used to our body telling us when something is wrong or not working the way it’s supposed to. Our teeth are no different. Tooth sensitivity is one such example. Bite into an ice cream cone or sip on a warm cup of coffee, and you may just feel a zing when you least expect it. Other times, that sensitive sensation may be less noticeable and require more focus to pick up on it.
But unlike other physical ailments, tooth sensitivity and other dental pain is often quite excruciating. When severe enough to keep you from eating or being able to go about normal activities, you should let our Scottsdale dentist know right away.
When Tooth Sensitivity is Normal
Teeth are alive, each with their own individual nerves. Additionally, each tooth root is covered in thousands of tiny pores (tubules), all of which lead to the inside of the tooth. When something like cold foods come into contact with those pores, it can trigger hypersensitivity.
Not everyone has equally sensitive teeth, but it’s normal for certain teeth to be more sensitive than others. For instance, your front teeth (incisors) will tend to be the ones that have large nerves and are the first to react to eating something cold.
If you’ve started using a new product — such as whitening toothpaste — and have begun to notice tooth sensitivity within the first couple of weeks of use, it is likely because of active ingredients that are entering the pores of your teeth, irritating the nerve. In most cases, refraining from using the product as frequently — or alternating it with a sensitivity formulated toothpaste — can help to reduce your symptoms.
Dental Problems That May Cause Tooth Sensitivity
If you’ve experienced gum recession (due to aggressive tooth brushing or periodontal disease), the soft tissues that normally wrap around your tooth roots to protect them from the outer elements are no longer doing their full job. As such, that tiny amount of root surface area is exposed to temperature changes.
Unfortunately, gums don’t grow back on their own. The first step is to determine the cause of the recession and then find a way to prevent it from worsening. From there, we’ll create a plan, such as periodontal therapy or soft tissue grafting, to treat the condition.
Tooth decay may, but doesn’t always, cause tooth sensitivity. Sometimes the tooth just doesn’t feel right, causes severe pain, or isn’t tender at all. For a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, you’ll need to have it examined by our Scottsdale dentist and an X-ray taken to determine how deep any decay may be.
Types of Tooth Sensitivity and What They Mean
As if tooth sensitivity weren’t straightforward enough, there are different types that mean different things.
Here are a few examples:
Cold — Having teeth that are tender to cold is generally considered the least problematic type of tooth sensitivity. In most cases, modifying your oral health products or seeing a dentist for a desensitizing treatment are helpful.
Sweet — When a sweetened food or drink causes a “zing” in your tooth, it is often a red flag for the development of a cavity. You don’t necessarily have to be eating candy or having a soft drink, because even artificial sweeteners or your flavored coffee creamer may set it off.
Hot — If your tooth hurts when it’s exposed to heat, it usually means there’s internal nerve damage at the very center of the tooth. There may or may not be an abscess or darkening of the enamel that accompanies the symptoms.
Pressure — Sensitivity when biting or chewing on a tooth usually means there is something that is structurally compromised. It could be a crack, broken filling, or even periodontal disease. Sometimes, pressure sensitivity in upper teeth is due to nasal sinus congestion.
DIY Tooth Sensitivity Treatments
The best place to start for DIY teeth sensitivity treatment is to purchase a toothpaste that’s formulated for sensitive teeth, without whitening ingredients. Use the product at least twice a day; full results are typically evident within 10-14 days. Increasing your fluoride uptake with an over the counter rinse may also help.
Sensitivity Treatments Available at Your Dentist’s Office
Basic tooth sensitivity can usually be reversed by applying professional grade fluoride varnish or desensitizing formulas at your appointment. On average, most people experience relief of symptoms for about three months. In some cases, we may prescribe a fluoride gel to use at home.
If your tooth sensitivity is caused by gum disease, then soft tissue periodontal therapy is the next step. This involves a series of cleanings to remove the bacteria that are causing the infection, and continuing maintenance to prevent relapse. Sometimes, a locally placed antibiotic and/or gum grafting is also necessary.
Hot, pressure, and sweet sensitivity will require an X-ray to determine the extent of the decay or damage. If it’s a small cavity, a filling is usually all that is needed. But deeper infections that involve the nerve of the tooth will require endodontic therapy (a root canal) along with a crown.
Don’t Ignore the Symptoms
At Lernor Family Dental, we want our patients to alert us to any changes — such as pain or tooth sensitivity — that they’re experiencing between their checkups. You know your body better than anyone else; if something doesn’t feel right, there’s a good chance that you need to have it looked at.
Dental problems such as periodontal disease and tooth decay do not subside or resolve themselves. Only professional intervention can halt the spread of infection and prevent it from getting worse. Through early screening and diagnosis, we can identify the causes of tooth sensitivity, avoiding the advancement of oral health concerns.
If it’s been more than six months since your last dental cleaning and exam, we invite you to call our dentist in Scottsdale, AZ today to schedule. Lernor Family Dental accepts new patients of all ages. No insurance? Be sure to ask about our in-house savings program to receive essential preventative care and discounts on all treatment.
Are you suffering from increased or sudden tooth sensitivity? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Lernor, an experienced Scottsdale AZ dentist, to get to the source of the problem! Call (602) 483-4112 today.