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Tooth Sensitivity: What Does it Mean?

By: Dr. Ratti Handa on February 17th, 2017

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Winter has descended upon us in New England and we do what we can to keep the cold at bay. We get the right winter gear, warm up our cars and protect our homes from the chill. The extreme winter air is exhilarating and we take comfort in knowing that the warmth of our home awaits us.

But what about our teeth?

The extreme hot and cold of our meals and beverages often make them taste better–helping us to manage hot summer days and brutally cold nights. What happens when our teeth cry out in shock, discomfort—even pain—when we enjoy some of life’s simplest pleasures?

Tooth sensitivity is an important symptom and is worth paying close attention to. It likely warrants a trip to your dentist to explore the potential causes.

5 Biggest Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

1. Gum recession
Gum recession refers to the loss of gum tissue around the teeth, resulting in exposure of the root structure. Once this exposure occurs, the teeth become increasingly sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. Some causes for gum recession include: frequent use of tobacco products, teeth grinding (bruxism), injuries to the mouth and oral piercings.

2. A cracked tooth
A cracked tooth isn’t always as obvious as having bitten something hard and discovering a noticeable chip. You may have sustained a recent bump to the chin, experienced grinding or clenching at night or perhaps you have a habit of chewing on ice or hard candy. Whatever the reason, one big indicator (not to be ignored) is extreme sensitivity to cold.

3. Excessive plaque; cavity & nerve pain
Plaque is a four-letter word (ok, six 😉 when it comes to dental health. We do what we can to keep plaque from building–and eventually wearing away–our protective enamel. If you have a tooth that becomes sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, a cavity may be the culprit. Our suggestion: try some tooth sensitive toothpaste. If this doesn’t relieve your discomfort, it’s time to contact a trusted dentist.

4. Tooth grinding/clenching (Bruxism)
Do you sometimes wake up with a sore jaw? Do you ever feel like your bite is a bit off? Do you catch yourself clenching in times of high stress?If you answer yes to any of these, you are likely a nighttime teeth grinder. One common effect of teeth grinding is the wearing of enamel. Once the enamel is gone the dentin–or the middle layer–of your tooth becomes exposed. Dentin contains tiny hollow tubes within the tooth that lead to your nerves.  And we all know that aggravated nerves equal pain.This is a rather common affliction and is often treated by obtaining a custom fit mouth guard from your dentist’s office.

5. Sinus Infection
Believe it or not, your sinuses may be the cause of tooth discomfort. Think of where your sinuses are located. The nerves of your teeth lay across the floor of the sinus much like an extension cord lays across the floor in someone’s house. When your sinuses have built up pressure, this sensation is also being applied to the unprotected nerves of the teeth resulting in a dull, constant ache. This can occur on one or both sides.
Of course, you want to treat this infection. If tooth pain persists once your sinus infection has cleared, please give us a call and we will get you in as soon as possible!

If your teeth are on the sensitive side, please do not hesitate to reach out to our office. We promise to make every visit to the Ratti Handa practice as comfortable and stress-free as possible!

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To book an appointment, feel free to call us at 978.635.9995 or complete the form below.

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The information presented here is not intended or implied to be medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should be used for informational purposes only.