It’s a chilly day and as you walk by the grocery store, you catch a whiff of yummy French onion soup. As your mouth begins to water, you come to the sobering realization that while the soup may taste good, it will be a pain (literally) to enjoy.
The same kind of intense, dull tooth and jaw ache happen when enjoying overly cold delights such as ice cream.
You probably think you just have sensitive teeth and there’s nothing you can do about it. You just keep using sensitive teeth toothpaste and hope for the best.
Your sensitive teeth could be simply that, but it could also be a greater dental problem that your dentist should look at.
Possible Dental Conditions
Sensitive teeth are a telltale sign that the enamel of your tooth or teeth has been worn down and weakened. The tooth enamel is the hard, protective barrier that protects the inside of the tooth, including the tooth pulp. The pulp of the tooth is where blood vessels and nerves of the tooth are. It is also where the tooth roots are that affix the tooth to the jaw.
When the nerves of the tooth pulp are exposed, as when the tooth enamel is weakened, tooth sensitivity and pain often result.
The wearing away of tooth enamel has many causes which prompt a visit to your dentist. The most common dental issues that result in the weakening of tooth enamel include: tooth decay, broken or chipped teeth, teeth grinding, and gum disease.
Tooth Decay (Cavities)
Tooth decay is the most common destroyer of tooth enamel. Tooth decay is the result of poor and inconsistent dental hygiene practices, a poor diet, and being a part of a high-risk group, such as those who smoke and who have certain health conditions such as diabetes that can lower one’s immune system functionality.
Cavities are formed when germs and bacteria of leftover food particles decay and interact with saliva, producing a sugary substance that eats away at teeth enamel.
Cavities can be easily treated with fillings or a crown (if the tooth decay affects a large area of a tooth).
Broken or Chipped Teeth
Teeth enamel can also be weakened due to injury and trauma such as when a tooth is broken or chipped. Teeth that are broken and/or chipped should be treated by a dentist immediately. Permanent adult teeth don’t grow back once they fall out or get broken. The best chance to save the tooth in either case is to have a dentist treat it immediately.
If broken or chipped teeth aren’t immediately treated, a host of dental treatment options will be employed to preserve what is left of the tooth including crowns, inlays, onlays and veneers. Many of these dental treatments are considered cosmetic dental procedures and may likely not be covered by dental insurance.
Teeth Grinding or Clenching
Sometimes tooth enamel is worn off by the excessive grinding and clenching of teeth. The rubbing of the teeth surfaces and the extreme pressure put on the surface of the teeth can easily break down the enamel over time.
This condition of clenching and grinding of teeth is called Bruxism. Most patients with Bruxism often clench or grind their teeth at night while they are asleep. Most aren’t aware that they have it.
Patients with Bruxism can be treated with the use of specialized mouth guards that are worn at night while the patient sleeps. The soft rubber mouth guard cushions teeth which protect them from further damage of grinding and clenching.
Sometimes tooth sensitivity is caused by gum disease. Gum recession, (when one’s teeth look unusually long) is a sign of moderate gum disease. When there is moderate gum disease, the pockets of gum tissue around the roots of teeth loosen and deepen, causing the gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, exposing parts of the teeth that are normally protected and covered by gum tissue.
As these gum pockets widen and deepen, there is a greater chance that food particles will get lodged inside and begin to infect the roots of teeth (the part of teeth that anchor them to the jaw). If gum scaling and planing aren’t performed by the dentist, the gum recession will worsen and lead to teeth being lost and the bone tissue of the jaw becoming weak and compromised.