Sensitive Teeth: Symptoms, Causes and Complications

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Many people feel a pain or discomfort after a spoonful of hot soup or a bite of ice cream. The pain that is caused by cold or hot foods can be a sign of cavity but this is a very common condition in people who have sensitive teeth. Teeth sensitivity is also known as dentin hypersensitivity. It is a pain or discomfort in the teeth which is a response to a certain stimuli, such as cold or hot temperatures. The tooth sensitivity can be temporary or it can be a chronic pain. It can affect one tooth, several teeth or all the teeth in a single individual. There can be different causes for sensitive teeth but most cases of teeth sensitivity are easily treated with a change in the oral hygiene regimen.

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Sensitive Teeth Symptoms

It is known that people who are having sensitive teeth feel pain or discomfort as a response to certain triggers. You can feel this pain at the roots of your affected teeth. Here are the most common triggers for sensitive teeth:

  • Alcohol – based mouth rinses
  • Bruising or flossing teeth
  • Cold water, especially during routine dental cleanings
  • Acidic foods and beverages
  • Sweet foods and beverages
  • Cold air
  • Cold foods and beverages
  • Hot foods and beverages

The symptoms can come and go over time for no obvious reason and they can range from mild to intense. If you have experienced tooth sensitivity for the first time, then you should make an appointment with your dentist. Your doctor will check the health of your teeth and he or she will check for potential problems, like recessed gums, loose fillings or cavities that could be a cause for tooth sensitivity. Your dentist will make a routine dental cleaning and they will make a visual exam. Your doctor can touch your teeth using dental instruments to check for sensitivity.

Sensitive Teeth Causes

It is known that some people have more sensitive teeth than other people because they have thinner enamel. The outer layer of the tooth is called enamel and this layer protects the tooth. There are some cases when the tooth enamel can be worn down from:

  • Regularly eating or drinking acidic foods and beverages
  • Grinding your teeth at night
  • Using a hard toothbrush
  • Bruising your teeth too hard

There are some cases when other conditions can lead to tooth sensitivity. GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) can cause acid to come up from your stomach and esophagus and this can wear down your teeth over time. Also those conditions which are causing frequent vomiting, such as bulimia and gastroparesis, can cause acid to wear down the enamel. The gum recession can leave sections of the tooth exposed and unprotected which will also cause sensitivity.

Worn – down fillings or crowns, chipped teeth, broken teeth and tooth decay can leave the dentin of the tooth exposed which can cause sensitivity. In this case, you can feel sensitivity in one particular tooth or region of your mouth instead of the majority of teeth. Also your teeth can be temporarily sensitive following a dental work like teeth bleaching, crowns or getting fillings. When this is the case, the sensitivity will be confined to one tooth or the teeth surrounding the tooth which has received the dental work. This will subside after several days.

Sensitive Teeth Complications

If your tooth sensitivity is making difficult for you to eat, then you should talk with your dentist to find an appropriate solution. There are many mouthwashes and toothpastes which are designed for sensitive teeth and you can easily find them in markets. If they are not effective, then you should talk with your doctor to prescribe you mouthwash and toothpaste. You need to talk with your dentist if you experience symptoms of cavities or potential root damage so you will get your treatment quickly and you will prevent complications. Here are some complications which can indicate that you need to visit your dentist as soon as possible:

  • Pain when biting down or chewing
  • Staining on the surface of your teeth
  • Sharper pain instead of milder pain
  • Tooth sensitivity localized to one tooth
  • You have a spontaneous tooth pain that occurs without an obvious cause


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