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What's Causing Your Tooth Sensitivity to Hot and Cold?

By Steven Kail on October 07, 2016


A person holding the hand to the mouth in painIf you experience a sharp, sudden pain in your teeth when eating or drinking hot and cold foods, you may require dental treatment. Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold can be a sign of a dental health problem. General dentistry treatments can help treat the underlying causes of tooth sensitivity. To find out which treatments can alleviate your tooth sensitivity to hot and cold, schedule a consultation with Jackson, TN dentists Steven Kail, Joseph Leonard, and Chris Arnold. 

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks, or even breathing in cold air, is a common dental complaint. Tooth sensitivity isn't always a sign of dental damage but, in most cases, it is. Some of the common causes of tooth sensitivity to hot and cold include:

  • Overusing whitening products: Whitening products strip the enamel of protective minerals, exposing tiny pores within the teeth. These pores pass through the dentin layer of the teeth and to the nerves, causing increased sensitivity when exposed. Overusing whitening products can leave these pores open, causing pain when the teeth are exposed to hot and cold.
  • Cracks within the enamel: Cracks within the enamel, the outer protective layer of the teeth, can allow temperature fluctuations to reach the nerves within the teeth, causing increased dental sensitivity.
  • Enamel erosion: Enamel erosion, which is caused by the acids in foods and drinks, aggressive brushing, or teeth grinding, can also lead to tooth sensitivity. Enamel erosion leaves the porous dentin layer of the teeth exposed, allowing hot and cold temperatures to reach the nerves and cause pain.
  • Gum recession: The gums protect the portions of the teeth not covered by enamel. When gum recession occurs, often a result of gum disease, the structures of the teeth beneath the gum line are left vulnerable and can be sensitive to hot and cold.

Alleviating Tooth Sensitivity

Although tooth sensitivity doesn't always mean there's an underlying dental problem, it is likely that there is some level of dental damage. Seeking treatment early can help prevent dental damage and protect your oral health. Once a cause is determined, the proper treatment may be performed, including dental bonding to restore cracked or damaged enamel, dental crowns for severe enamel loss, and gum graft surgery for gum recession. In addition to these treatments, tooth sensitivity may be further alleviated with one or more of the following suggestions:

  • Switch to sensitive formula toothpaste: Sensitive formula toothpastes can help desensitize the teeth when used regularly.
  • Limit acidic foods and drinks: Limit acidic foods and drinks to protect the enamel from erosion.
  • Use light pressure when brushing: Aggressive brushing can wear down the enamel and can be avoided by using light pressure and a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Limit use of whitening treatments: Limiting the use of whitening treatments allows the minerals in the enamel to replenish, helping to reduce tooth sensitivity caused by the overuse of whitening treatments.

Find Out Which Treatments Are Right for You

For more information about the causes of tooth sensitivity to hot and cold, and to discover your treatment options, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Drs. Kail, Leonard, or Arnold today.

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