If enjoying a spoonful of ice cream or sipping a cup of hot coffee incites a painful response from your teeth, you likely are suffering from tooth sensitivity. For those of us that experience tooth sensitivity when consuming hot or cold foods/drinks, it can be troubling and concerning. Although tooth sensitivity and pain is certainly often due to tooth decay, there are a number of other factors that may be at work:
If your gums are eroding, the roots of your teeth may be exposed. This area of your tooth is not protected by enamel and is much more sensitive to hot or cold. Recessive gums can lead to gum disease or tooth loss. If gum recession is the cause of your tooth sensitivity, it should be addressed with your dentist to eliminate long term issues.
Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
Teeth grinding most commonly happens at night while sleeping and can have damaging effects on your health. One of these effects is the wear on the enamel of your teeth. This wear can expose dentin, a sensitive layer of living tissue in your tooth that communicates with the nerves. When hot or cold reaches your dentin layer, you will experience pain or sensitivity. Be sure to talk to your dentist if you are concerned you may be grinding your teeth. He/she can fit you with a mouth guard at night to protect your teeth from further damage.
If you’ve recently had your teeth bleached, this may be the impetus for your tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods. Although great for removing surface stains and discoloration, products with peroxide in the bleaching process will likely soak through your tooth’s enamel, exposing the dentin underneath. Although the impact is usually temporary, you can minimize the sensitivity impact by lessening the strength and exposure time of your bleaching product, as well as decreasing the frequency of your whitening regimen.
When acid erosion affects our teeth, we experience tooth sensitivity. Dry mouth increases this process, as saliva is one of the best defenses to acid erosion in our mouth. If the saliva glands are not producing enough, teeth will likely become more sensitive. To minimize dry mouth, try increasing the flow of saliva by sucking on sugar-free, non-sour lozenges. Also, avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages which can dry your mouth. Finally, talk to your dentist about what can be done to address your dry mouth symptoms.
Any tooth sensitivity, especially if it is persistent, should be addressed at your next dental visit. Be sure to let our dental team know what teeth are giving you concern so that we can help you diagnose the issue and help you find relief.