"My Teeth Are Sensitive. Should I Be Concerned?"
By contactus@drjrobb.com
March 02, 2022
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Sensitive teeth are a signal that something’s wrong in your mouth. It could be something as serious as an abscessed tooth or something less serious such as exposed roots. The best recommendation is to have a dentist examine your mouth to determine what’s causing your sensitivity.

 

Your dentist may ask questions such as:

   When do you notice the sensitivity?

   Are there things that trigger your sensitivity?

   Does anything make it feel better?

   How long does it last?

 

Your answers will help your dentist to pinpoint what is causing your symptoms.

 

When you notice the sensitivity:

Sensitivity that’s present even when there’s nothing to cause it usually indicates a more serious problem. Sensitivity that gets worse when you lay down may indicate a tooth abscess. Sensitivity that gets worse when you bend down to do something may indicate referred pain from your sinuses. Recent dental procedures or starting use of a tooth whitening product may also cause your teeth to be sensitive. Sensitivity that occurs only after a certain trigger will assist your dentist in focusing on potential causes.

 

What are some of these triggers?

Sensitivity to sweet things usually indicates that a filling, crown or other dental restoration needs to be replaced. The sugar molecules rush into the gap between your tooth and the dental material and cause the sensation.

 

Sensitivity to biting can indicate a fracture or crack in the tooth. As the crack opens and closes during biting, it causes a twinge or a zing. These can be very hard to diagnose in their early stages because it is hard to reproduce the sensation in the dental office. We will often call these microfractures or cracked tooth syndrome. It’s a little like playing with a wire paper clip. Each time the sensation is felt, the cracked area gets a bit worse. Eventually, part of the tooth will break off. Biting sensitivity can also indicate an abscessed tooth. We don’t often think of our teeth as moving, but they do. The area around your tooth contains fibers that act like the shock absorbers on your car. When there is an abscess (localized area of infection) at the base of your tooth, biting pushes the tooth root into the infection. The result is pain or sensitivity.

 

Sensitivity to heat usually indicates that the nerve of the tooth is dying off. Many of these teeth also have an abscess at the end of the tooth root.

 

Sensitivity to cold is the hardest cause to pin down. Cold sensitivity can indicate gum recession, caused by gum disease or by brushing too hard. Recession exposes your tooth roots. Because the roots are usually covered by your gums in a healthy mouth, they don’t have as thick a covering as the rest of your tooth. It’s a bit like hitting the hot metal rack in an oven with your bare hands. Teeth grinding or excessive acidic foods and drinks can wear down your tooth’s outer covering (enamel) and expose the more sensitive dentin underneath. Excessive plaque build up can also cause sensitivity (yet one more reason to see your dentist or dental hygienist for regular preventive care).

 

What, if anything, makes it feel better?

If you’ve got a tooth that hurts to heat and feels better if you put cold on it, that’s usually a sign of an abscessed tooth. If you avoid the area because certain things bother it, that can help your dentist pinpoint the problem as well.

 

How long does the sensitivity last once the trigger’s been removed?

For reversible issues, the sensitivity usually goes away quickly once the triggering material is removed from the tooth. Often a more simple treatment like adjusting your bite, replacing some dental work, or using a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth will correct the problem. If the sensation lingers for a long time, even after the triggering event is over, it is more likely that the nerve of your tooth is involved. A root canal or removal of the tooth is often needed in these cases.

 

Many people try to self-treat their sensitive teeth with a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. Remember, if you try to treat sensitivity on your own, you should have relief within 4-8 weeks. If the problem persists (even just a little bit) after eight (8) weeks, you should see a dentist to make sure more severe problems don’t exist.

 

If you are having unexplained tooth sensitivity, Dr. Robb invites you to call her office at 440-960-1940 to schedule to have it checked. You can also reach Dr. Robb via her website at www.drjrobb.com.

 

*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals. 

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