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General Dentistry

Why Are My Teeth Sensitive to Hot and Cold?

September 13, 2019


The ache that comes from biting into a refreshing popsicle or from sipping your favorite drink if you have sensitive teeth is almost enough to make you never want to use your teeth again. Sometimes it's bad enough to give you a headache. Take heart, you're not alone. Studies have shown that 1 in 8 people suffer from having sensitive teeth.


My tooth is sensitive to hot and cold temperatures


If you get sharp, deep, achy pain when biting into hot or cold food, or even experience pain when inhaling cold air in the wintertime, you probably suffer from having sensitive teeth. This pain can come and go, linger, occur over a long period of time or develop suddenly, but in any case, it’s uncomfortable. If you have sensitive teeth, you may just be tempted to avoid foods that trigger discomfort, but the problem is a little more complicated than that.


Why teeth become sensitive


Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold can be caused by a number of different factors. You may not know it, but teeth actually have different layers to them. The innermost part of the tooth is called the pulp and is filed with sensitive nerves. The pulp is covered with a layer called dentin, which has tiny tubules that are each connected to a nerve ending, and together with the pulp makes the root of the tooth. When your gums recede, the roots of your teeth become exposed and can cause tooth sensitivity to occur. This is pretty common, and it’s said that up to 80% of people experience gum recession by age 65.

Tooth sensitivity can also occur when the tooth’s enamel, a protective layer, becomes damaged. Tooth enamel is the pearly white part of the tooth that we see everyday, and it often takes quite a beating. Teeth become sensitive if the enamel isn’t taken care of, causing them to become weak over time. A crack in the enamel causes intense and sudden tooth sensitivity. Some tooth whitening treatments also cause tooth sensitivity temporarily..

In some cases, the pulp of the tooth can become infected, or tooth sensitivity can be a symptom of a cavity. How do you know if you need to schedule an appointment?  If the pain lingers for more than say 15 seconds that could indicate nerve problems.  If pain spontaneously happens without any triggers you should give us a call Apple Tree Dental here in Rexburg right away.  If the pain feels like a constant dull throb that’s another good indicator to call us.  Don’t be shy about coming in, because if you catch things soon enough we can typically save you from having a bigger problem.  Not only that, but when we catch things early we can avoid the higher costs of more complex treatments.


Tooth sensitivity treatment


There are several things you can do to prevent tooth sensitivity from occurring. To keep your gums from receding, be sure to floss often in order to get the build-up out from between your teeth. Don’t brush your teeth too hard, which can lead to accelerated recession of the gums--using a soft bristle brush is recommended. Grinding your teeth can also wear out or even break your tooth’s enamel, so if you tend to grind your teeth, you should talk to us about getting an oral orthotic (sometimes referred to as a night guard) to protect them. Your favorite beverages, like soda, coffee, tea, wine, and almost all juices, are all very acidic and can cause enamel erosion very quickly. If your tooth is sensitive to hot and cold, cutting back on these beverages can make a huge difference for you. If you are using a whitening treatment and your teeth become sensitive, cut back the frequency or stop the treatment altogether. 


Sometimes, these problems can escalate enough for you to be seeking immediate relief. Your dentist may recommend a toothpaste specifically made for sensitive teeth, which desensitizes your nerves and contains fluoride to help protect against tooth decay. If the problem is more serious, we offer a tooth sensitivity treatment that applies a sealant on your tooth to help protect it and alleviate the pain that comes from tooth sensitivity. If you’re ready to escape the pain from sensitive teeth, or if you have any questions, click here to talk to a professional today!