This might sound familiar: you’re enjoying an ice cream sundae, or drinking a cool glass of orange juice, when your tooth is suddenly hit by a sharp pain. You wonder if you might have a cavity, or if, perhaps, the filling in your tooth might have come off. While either case is possible, it may also just be a simple case of tooth sensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity occurs when the nerves in the tooth are irritated by the movement of liquids within the tubes of the dentin. Located beneath the protective enamel coating, the dentin is the layer of tissue that contains the pulp, the living part of the tooth which contains the nerves and blood vessels. The irritation usually takes place because either the enamel has been damaged or the gums have receded, thereby exposing the dentin. When this happens, the tooth becomes particularly sensitive to heat, cold, acidic substances (like citrus fruits and juices), and sometimes even touch. This can consequently create discomfort when eating or drinking.
How to Address the Problem
One way you can lessen tooth sensitivity is by maintaining good oral hygiene. Brush and floss your teeth regularly. In addition, be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush lightly so as to avoid damaging the enamel and your gums. Using toothpaste for sensitive teeth will also help alleviate the problem, although it usually takes a minimum of one month of regular use for it to take full effect. Stay away from tartar-control toothpaste though, as this can actually increase sensitivity.
Another way to make your teeth less sensitive is by avoiding substances that aggravate or contribute to the condition, such as soft drinks and acid-containing foods.
When to See a Dentist
If your tooth continues to be extremely sensitive after three or four days, then it would be best to see a dentist so as to get an accurate diagnosis. This is especially important since some other conditions, like cavities and abscesses, can also exhibit similar pain symptoms.
Your dentist can manage tooth sensitivity in various ways. This includes performing treatments at the clinic, such as the application of sealants, or other desensitizing or filling materials, as well as prescribing products that you can apply yourself. Talk to your dentist so that he is aware of your concerns, and ask him to explain the available options. This way, you can be assured that you will receive the most effective and suitable treatment available.