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What Causes Tooth Sensitivity

A hot cup of coffee on a cold morning or a big bite of ice cream on a hot summer day, both of these indulgences can cause some serious tooth pain. This jolt of tooth sensitivity may be your body alerting you to a tooth problem.

Possible causes of sensitivity include:

  • Tooth decay aka Cavities
  • Chipped tooth
  • Exposed tooth root
  • Broken fillings
  • Gum disease
  • Loss of tooth enamel

Enamel is the hard, outer layer of a tooth. It protects and insulates the nerve that is inside the tooth. Loss of enamel will allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerve causing some serious tooth sensitivity. Bone and gums tissue cover the root of the tooth and provide additional insulation. When there is gum recession and bone loss that exposes the tooth root you may experience even more tooth sensitivity.

  • Desensitizing toothpaste. This tooth sensitivity toothpaste contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve. Usually it will take several days of use before there is a noticeable reduction in tooth sensitivity.
  • Topical Fluoride – An in-office technique which strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations. There are also over-the-counter fluoride containing products.
  • Crown or Filling – These may be used to correct a flaw or decay that results in sensitivity. When a filling breaks down, either because of a new cavity or a structural failure, it needs to be replaced. A replacement filling can usually be done, but sometimes you need a new crown to provide additional coverage and insulation.
  • Surgical gum graft – If gum tissue has been lost and the root is exposed, this will protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root canal – This is the last resort. When tooth sensitivity cannot be resolved by the above methods, the last choice is to remove the nerve by performing a root canal. Once the nerve is removed there will be no more sensitivity from within the tooth.

The occasional jolt when you chug a slush puppy should not cause alarm. If you find yourself unable to drink beverages below room temperature or unable to chew warm food this is a red flag indicating serious tooth sensitivity. As you can see, once the cause of tooth sensitivity is known it can be successfully treated. Tooth pain is not something you have to live with. Alternatively, if the idea of eating and drinking warm temperature items is less terrifying than a root canal, at least now you know your options for treating tooth sensitivity.

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