Have you been experiencing sudden pain when your teeth are exposed to extreme heat or cold? Roughly 22% of U.S. adults report having an episode of pain associated with their teeth, gums or jaw in the past six months. Often tooth sensitivity is rather mild; however, when feelings of pain are severe or persistent it is best to visit your dental professional.

Sensitivity is a Symptom of Other Oral Health Problem

When the teeth become overly sensitive to hot or cold it is often the result of an underlying oral health problem. Those who choose to ignore these signs or procrastinate are potentially worsening the condition. It is best to schedule a dental examination when the problems first occur.

Roughly 30% of individuals have some genetic predisposition to developing periodontal disease.

Erosion of Enamel

Our teeth are naturally protected by enamel, which is the hard outside layer that is resistant to causes of potential decay. Enamel tends to weaken as we age and when it wears away we experience sensitivity from this exposure to the dentin layer beneath. Approximately 12% of individuals have some form of dental “hypersensitivity.”

These conditions arise from exposure often caused by acid, sugar, brushing too hard, and more. Our saliva contains calcium that helps to neutralize the acid. Often the erosion of enamel can also be recognized by the yellowish discoloration of exposed dentin.

Receding Gums

Our gums serve as the support structure for our teeth and help to protect the often sensitive nerves. When our gums recede, our teeth become more exposed and this results in potential sensitivity. Gaps that develop between the teeth and gums allow bacteria to enter and begin building up.

Gum recession increases the likelihood of developing gum disease, gingivitis, and infections in the region. Receding gums is a somewhat common condition. Because it develops slowly, it often goes unnoticed. Those who use tobacco products are at an increased likelihood of developing gum-related conditions.

Tooth Decay (Cavity)

When our teeth decay a cavity is created. These cavities expose nerves within the tooth that trigger feelings of pain. Sensitivity to hot or cold is a sign that a cavity may be developing or worsening. This sensitivity may also result when a filling that was used to repair the existing cavity chips away or falls out.

It is also possible that sensitivity stems from small cracks within the structure of a tooth. Hot or cold exposure to the region of the crack can cause nerve discomfort. Often these cracks are so small that you may have difficulty recognizing them.

Infection of Gums or Sinuses

Infection is something that may develop somewhere in our bodies that may be caused by bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms. Infections that occur in the region of the gums are called periodontal disease. Among those over the age of 30, nearly 50% will develop some problems with periodontal disease.

In the early stages, gum disease is considered to be gingivitis. Sensitivity in the teeth may be a preliminary symptom of the condition. In some cases, a sinus infection will also cause pain to develop in the tooth and jaw. This is the result of pressure associated with inflammation that creates pressure and discomfort.

Grinding of Teeth

Those who regularly clench their jaws and/or grind their teeth are likely to develop greater tooth sensitivity. This pressure and friction can cause the enamel to wear. Bruxism is a term that describes this condition. Many individuals grind their teeth at night while sleeping.

Those who grind their teeth during the night may experience achy feelings in the jaw in the morning. Some of these people will hear a “popping” or “clicking” noise when the jaw moves. Over longer periods, the teeth may also begin to shift out of proper alignment. One solution is to wear a mouth guard during the night.

This condition is often linked to stress. It is also common among those suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Some studies have revealed that those taking psychiatric medications and antidepressants are more likely to grind their teeth.

Tooth Whitening

There are now many products in the market today for tooth whitening. Some of these include whitening “strips” and gels that can be applied to the teeth for this purpose. One ingredient commonly found in these products is hydrogen peroxide. In many cases, hydrogen peroxide can create significant sensitivity. Typically, the level of sensitivity will diminish over days or weeks.

When to Visit a Dental Professional

What are some indications that you should promptly seek professional dental care? Those who experience pain that persists for more than two days are encouraged to visit a dentist. Some people may feel intense tooth sensitivity that develops into a migraine headache. If a high level of tooth sensitivity is accompanied by a fever it is best to have a dental exam.

Possible Treatment Options

  • Remember that it is always best to have a dental exam promptly when symptoms occur to prevent the problem from worsening.
  • When a cavity has developed in the area of sensitivity it may need a filling to alleviate the discomfort.
  • If your dentist determines that the sensitivity is the result of an infection it may require a root canal. This involves cleaning out the area where the infection exists and then applying filler material.
  • Toothpaste is available that will desensitize the tooth and reduce the pain.
  • Your dentist may consider treating sensitive teeth using fluoride. The dentist may prescribe a fluoride treatment that you can perform at home.
  • If the root area of a tooth becomes exposed your dentist may use a resin product that can create a bond and seal the area.
  • In some cases, the root of the tooth has lost much of its supportive tissue. This may be treated by a grafting procedure using tissue from some other area of the mouth.
  • Consider using a toothbrush that has softer bristles and remember to brush gently.
  • It is critical to remember the fundamentals of oral health—to brush and floss the teeth daily.

Provider of Comprehensive Family Dental Care in Mesa

The professional team at East Valley Dental Professionals (EVDP) has been caring for the oral health of patients in this region for many years.

We deliver top-quality general, cosmetic, and emergency dental care for those of all ages. Contact our friendly staff today for an appointment at (480) 838-3033.