As the weather starts to cool down, you have the idea to make a comforting cup of delicious hot chocolate. But as soon as the drink passes your lips, a searing pain shoots through your teeth. You didn’t use to have sensitive teeth, so why do hot beverages bother you now? What can you do to relieve sensitivity? Is this a sign of a dental emergency? Keep reading below as we answer these questions.
Beneath the hard exterior of your tooth, called enamel, lies a soft layer called dentin. Dentin contains microscopic tubes with nerve cells inside of them. When these cells are stimulated by hot or cold temperatures, it creates a short jolt of pain. Receding gums, cracks in a tooth, or worn-down enamel can all expose the dentin and contribute to sensitivity.
These tips may help you manage the pain caused by sensitive teeth:
Switch out your toothpaste. Some kinds of toothpastes, such as those designed to whiten teeth, can actually increase sensitivity. Try desensitizing toothpaste instead. You may need to use this product for a few weeks before you start to feel a difference.
Be gentle. Brushing your teeth too forcefully or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can wear down the enamel and expose sensitive areas. Use a soft-bristled brush to apply very gentle pressure when cleaning.
Avoid acidic foods and drinks. Items with a high acid content, like soda or citrus fruits, can irritate sensitive teeth.
Mild sensitivity usually isn’t an emergency. However, if your sensitivity is excruciating, lasts for more than three or four days, and reacts to both hot and cold temperatures, it couldn’t hurt to have your dentist take a look. Sometimes, sensitivity may indicate a serious problem. For example, it may be caused by receding gums, which is a symptom of gum disease. If your temperature sensitivity is limited to one tooth and lingers for several seconds after touching the hot or cold stimulus, you should promptly call an emergency dentist. This could be a sign of a severe cavity that has reached the tooth’s center. You might need a root canal if you want to save the tooth from needing to be extracted.
Dental sensitivity is a fairly common problem, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be serious. If the tips listed above don’t alleviate your pain, ask your dentist if they can treat the problem.