More than 10% of adults suffer from ongoing tooth sensitivity with many others suffering from occasional sensitivity in their teeth. Occasional tooth sensitivity is not a cause for alarm. Whitening your teeth, brushing your teeth too roughly, and alcohol-based mouth rinses can all cause temporary sensitivity. But if sensitivity persists, or you experience a sudden onset of pain in a tooth or multiple teeth, seek treatment immediately. An infected or severely decayed tooth can lead to a host of health problems. Read on for everything to know about sensitive teeth.
Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
Occasional tooth sensitivity is perfectly normal. Tooth sensitivity is often triggered by one of the following:
- Hot food and beverages
- Cold food and beverages
- Sweet foods and beverages
- Acidic foods and beverages
- An abrupt change in temperature of food (cold cereal followed by hot coffee for example)
- Brushing your teeth too roughly
- Grinding your teeth at night
- Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- Frequent vomiting
- Dental work (fillings, crowns, teeth bleaching)
Ongoing tooth sensitivity or a sudden onset of tooth sensitivity is an indication that something is amiss in the health of your teeth or gums, and a nerve is being irritated. Conditions that cause ongoing tooth sensitivity include:
- Receding gums
- Tooth decay
- Broken tooth
- Split tooth
- Infected tooth
- Infection in the pulp of tooth
Sharp shooting pain in a tooth is not the same as tooth sensitivity. If you experience new, sharp, shooting pains in a tooth, you should schedule a dental appointment immediately.
Treatments That Help Tooth Sensitivity
If you suffer from occasional tooth sensitivity, review your diet, and activities that preceded the sensitivity. You may be able to pinpoint causes, including hot or cold foods. You may also find relief from switching to an alcohol-free mouthwash, or a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. However, if sensitivity and pain arise out of nowhere, you may need immediate endodontic treatment.
Endodontic treatment for sensitive teeth often involves a root canal. A root canal will be necessary if the pain you’re experiencing is due to severe tooth decay, or an infection in the interior of your tooth (pulp). Both conditions can be caused by a faulty dental crown, repeated dental procedures, poor oral hygiene, or dental trauma. It is important to schedule your root canal as soon as possible for the best opportunity to save your tooth.
During a root canal, an endodontist will remove the pulp of your tooth, and clean and sterilize the interior, including the canals. The tooth will then be sealed, and you’ll receive a crown. Today, root canals are pain-free, common procedures that can be done in a single appointment.
If an infection is deeper in the root of the tooth endodontic surgery known as apical or root-end surgery may be necessary. This microsurgical procedure is performed to remove the apex (tip) of the root and to remove any inflamed or infected surrounding tissues.