When you eat or drink something cold or hot, like a cup of coffee or a bowl of ice cream, you might feel some pain thanks to a burned tongue or a cold headache. What you shouldn’t feel is a spike of pain coming from one or more of your teeth. Tooth sensitivity makes it hard to eat certain foods, and it’s often a sign of bigger problems.
One major cause of tooth sensitivity is dental treatments, and teeth bleaching is a common culprit. But if that’s the case, you don’t need to worry: your teeth will go back to normal within a few hours.
But then there’s the problem of enamel erosion. Enamel protects the dentin and pulp layers underneath it from hot and cold temperatures, and if your tooth is sensitive that can mean your enamel is wearing thin. There are several different reasons this can happen:
• Tooth decay and cavities are so common that almost everyone on the planet has had at least once.
• Enamel never grows back, so after years and decades of acidic drinks and sugary foods the enamel on all your teeth will become thinner and your teeth more sensitive.
• Grinding your teeth will slowly wear them down.
• If you use a hard brush with gritty toothpaste, it can wear down your enamel.
The other major cause is gum recession. Usually caused by infections, gum recession can leave your tooth root exposed, and your roots don’t have a protective layer of enamel.
Since sensitive teeth are always a symptom of something else, the cure depends on the cause. If the problem is regular tooth decay, the solution can be as simple as a cavity filling. If your gums are receding, you might be able to fix the problem with a graft. If the real trouble is that your teeth are getting old, you may be able to treat it using a desensitizing toothpaste that numbs the nerve endings in your mouth.
If you feel a shooting pain coming from your tooth, whether it’s from hot or cold food or whether your tooth is sensitive to pressure, that’s a sign that something in your mouth needs to change. So unless the sensitivity goes away on its own and doesn’t come back, you should see your dentist soon to figure out what’s causing it and what you can do to make things better.