What Causes Sensitivity to Hot or Cold Foods?

Are you unable to enjoy certain hot or cold food and drinks because your teeth have become sensitive? Truth is, many of us deal with either temporary or chronic tooth sensitivities. It’s a very common problem and it actually affects the quality of life of millions of people throughout the world. According to the American Academy of General Dentistry, about 40 million US adults are suffering from tooth sensitivity. So, what causes tooth sensitivity and how can you prevent it?

What are the Causes of Teeth Sensitivity?

In most of the cases, the main reason behind tooth sensitivity is poor oral hygiene maintenance. Technically speaking: the bacteria present on the teeth utilize sugars from the plaque and tartar, and convert them into acidic products, resulting in the oral environment to become acidic. This acidic environment activates a series of reactions which results in an accelerated removal of minerals and makes the enamel weak and porous. Consequently, the enamel and dentine become exposed to the oral environment, and the affected tooth becomes sensitive.

Other factors which can cause teeth to become sensitive are:

  • Teeth Cavities – deep teeth cavities which extend into the nerve of the tooth.
  • Chipped or Fractured Teeth – fracture leading to exposure of the underlying sensitive tissues. If this is something you’re dealing with, you may need a filling, bonding, or crown.
  • Gum Problems – active gum or periodontal problems result in gum recession. This increases the chances of demineralization of the tooth, making them sensitive to hot or cold foods.
  • Dislodged/ worn fillings – damaged fillings increase the chances of secondary caries in the region, which ultimately leads to tooth sensitivity.

Common Cause: Worn Enamel

Healthy teeth are covered on the exterior by a hard, protective layer known as the dental enamel. Beneath the enamel lies the dentine and pulp, respectively. Both the dentine and pulp contain nerve endings which are responsible for conducting pain, touch, and pressure sensations to the brain. When the enamel is intact, only the extremes of pain sensations are transmitted to the brain. However, in cases when the enamel layer is damaged due to the above-mentioned factors, the dentine and pulp tissues are exposed, making the teeth hypersensitive to hot or cold sensations. As a result, a sharp pain is felt whenever you eat an ice-cream or drink a cup of hot chocolate.

What Happens if you Ignore Treatment of Sensitive Teeth?

Delaying treatment of hypersensitive teeth is a bad idea. Terrible, actually. Initially, the pain is only short-lived, and it goes away as soon as the stimulus is removed. At this stage, the problem can easily be corrected removing the demineralized tooth structure and restoring it with a suitable filling material. However, if you continue to ignore the situation, the dental pulp gets infected and becomes permanently damaged. When this happens, a root canal procedure is typically the only option to save the tooth.

How Can Tooth Sensitivity be Prevented?

  • Oral Hygiene Maintenance – preventing sensitivity of teeth is very easy. Simply take good care of your oral hygiene through regular brushing and flossing.
  • Regular Dental Checkups – never miss a check-up appointment with your dentist. If you notice that your teeth are becoming sensitive, never take this situation lightly, and visit your dentist as soon as possible. Tooth sensitivity can be completely reversed in the initial stages.
  • Avoid Acidic Drinks – acidic and fizzy drink increase the acidity of the oral environment, thereby demineralizing the dentine and increasing the chances of tooth sensitivity.
  • Desensitizing Products – certain toothpaste and mouthwashes are available in the market, which is helpful in preventing tooth sensitivity.

Remember, tooth sensitivity can many times be an early warning sign of an underlying cause or issue. So don’t put it off, and monitor it closely. If you are dealing with increasing tooth pain or sensitivity, call us today to schedule an appointment: (850) 492-7647.