August 3, 2020
Have you ever said no to some delicious ice cream or a fresh cup of hot coffee because you know it will send a searing pain through your mouth? If so, you’ve most likely experienced tooth sensitivity. While this sensation is definitely uncomfortable, you might be wondering whether it counts as a dental emergency. Keep reading below as we discuss the causes of sensitive teeth, whether you’ll need urgent dental care, and how the problem can be treated.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
Your teeth are protected by a hard outer layer called enamel. Directly underneath the enamel lies a softer layer known as dentin, which contains microscopic tubules with tiny nerve endings. When the enamel wears away, these tubules become more exposed, resulting in extreme discomfort when subjected to hot and cold stimuli.
Several factors can contribute to enamel wear and tear, such as:
- Teeth grinding
- Receding gums
- Aggressive brushing
- A diet high in sugary or acidic foods and beverages
Does Having Sensitive Teeth Mean I Have a Dental Emergency?
Tooth sensitivity does not always constitute a dental emergency, especially if your discomfort is short-lived. If the pain persists for more than a few days, though, it could signify a serious problem, like a cavity or infection deep within the tooth.
If you’re unsure, it never hurts to give your dentist a call. Sometimes, all you’ll need is a small filling, a topical fluoride application, or a prescription for an anti-sensitivity toothpaste. However, if the pain is more serious and these methods don’t work, it might be a sign that you have a deep-rooted infection that must be treated with root canal therapy. During this procedure, the tooth’s nerve is removed, preventing you from feeling pain there.
How Can You Treat Sensitive Teeth at Home?
Maybe your sensitivity is too mild or infrequent to warrant a filling or root canal. In that case, you can minimize discomfort by:
- Switching to a different toothpaste. Some kinds of toothpaste, such as those designed to whiten teeth, can exacerbate sensitivity. Try a desensitizing toothpaste, which can be found at most drugstores. Many of these treatments must be used daily for a few weeks before your symptoms subside. For quicker relief, you can massage the toothpaste onto your gums with your finger right after brushing.
- Take it easy. Don’t be too forceful when brushing your teeth, as that can wear down enamel. Also, use a brush with soft bristles.
- Limit acidic foods and drinks. Certain items can irritate sensitive teeth. Avoid things like soda, coffee, citrus fruits, wine, and energy drinks.
Tooth sensitivity might not seem like a big deal, but it can sometimes be a sign of a larger problem. To find relief for your discomfort, contact your dentist today!
About the Author
Dr. Tyler Schaffeld is a general and emergency dentist in Enterprise, OR who earned his Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from the Oregon Health and Science University. He and his team members are dedicated to providing fast relief for dental emergencies, including extremely sensitive teeth. To learn what might be causing your sensitivity and get quick treatment, visit Dr. Shaffeld’s website or call (541)-426-3783.
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