There’s no pain quite like that of a toothache. In reality, most of us have experienced it. The sharp pain, the difficulty drinking cold water, the ceaseless ache that drums on—these symptoms are usually telling of a cavity that needs to be filled. Yet, sometimes, these aches and pains continue (typically displaying moderate symptoms), especially when someone has tooth sensitivity.
But what does that mean, exactly? And what are the signs and symptoms of tooth sensitivity? If you think your discomfort might be because you have sensitive teeth, then read on to learn everything you need to know regarding this condition.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Sensitive teeth isn’t an issue that typically happens overnight. Instead, it’s usually gradual, building as the problem develops. Sometimes the pain plateaus, other times it breaks through the threshold (this is usually when there’s a cavity or opening).
Thus, to understand the signs and symptoms of sensitive teeth, it’s important that we break down the structure of a standard tooth.
You know when your parents and dentist beckoned you to brush your teeth? Really what they were saying is protect your tooth enamel! Your enamel is the outermost layer of the tooth, which acts as a shield for anything coming in. It helps defend the crowns of your beautiful pearly whites.
Cementum is the layer beneath the enamel, which protects the roots threaded beneath the gum line.
Dentin lives beneath both the enamel and cementum. It’s a softer, more vulnerable layer that contains tubules—microscopic canals that lead to the tooth’s root. This layer is one of the most common causes of tooth sensitivity.
- Exposure: The reason the above is important is because, should the tooth enamel and cementum decay, the dentin will be left exposed—which means heat, cold, acidity, and all types of particles can travel through those canals and stimulate the tooth’s pulp (its nerve). Once stimulated, the nerve will cause a reaction, which in turn is what creates the sensitivity. In worse cases (like a cavity), this sensitivity manifests into acute pain.
Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity
While the symptoms of tooth sensitivity can vary (more on this below), the overall symptom is itself stimulation. For the sake of simplicity, this means that your teeth are sensitive. But to what, exactly? Therein lies the differentiators, as every person can be sensitive to different things. Thus, if you feel that you’re suffering from tooth sensitivity, ask yourself the following questions:
- What does the sensitivity feel like? Is it a ceaseless pain that occurs throughout the day, or is it only situational?
- Does it occur when eating certain foods?
- What kind of pain is it—sharp or dull?
- Does it happen when you drink something hot?
- How about something cold?
- When you breathe through your mouth, does it activate the sensitivity?
- And how about when you chew?
By asking yourself questions and identifying the form of sensitivity, you can gain better visibility as to the severity and cause of your symptoms. To that end, what are the typical symptoms of tooth sensitivity?
The Physical Symptoms
Typically, tooth sensitivity symptoms manifest in the form of pain or discomfort when:
- You ingest something hot – For instance, if a hot cup of coffee or tea gives you that “ouch” feeling, then that could be a symptom of tooth sensitivity.
- You ingest something cold – Conversely, should you have difficulty consuming ice cream or drinking cold water, this is a symptom too.
- You ingest something sweet – If you’re eating chocolate or candy and notice discomfort in the roots of your teeth, this could be a symptom.
- You chew – If your teeth hurt while chewing—especially if it’s a softer substance—this too can be one of the symptoms of tooth sensitivity.
- You continue to ache – It’s possible that after your nerve is activated, the pain or dull ache continues on. Or, it might happen throughout the day. You wake up and the ache in your teeth is persistent, not letting up or worsening.
Essentially, the symptoms of sensitive teeth occur when someone experiences discomfort, particularly as it pertains to a certain type of food or temperature.
Why It’s Important to Visit Your Dentist
While the symptoms can be strictly related to tooth sensitivity, the unfortunate reality is that they’re synonymous with other conditions. At its core, tooth pain or discomfort indicates that the nerve(s) is being stimulated. You must then ask yourself, why do I have tooth sensitivity? For what reason would this stimulation occur?
While it could be no more than neglecting a healthy brushing routine, it could also be that you have cavities, decay, or cracks in your teeth that require professional care. And those symptoms can manifest the same way; in the form of pain and discomfort.
Thus, it’s something that can be difficult to evaluate on your own. You wouldn’t want to try and mitigate your sensitive teeth when in reality it’s a hole that needs to be filled (as it’ll only worsen). That’s why we always recommend that you visit your dentist.
Signs Of Tooth Sensitivity
While the symptoms of tooth sensitivity are quite evident, the signs of an oncoming problem can be subtle. Typically, the onset of tooth sensitivity is gradual. Should they appear overnight, it’s likely because there’s been an opening and your dentin is exposed (thus, activating the nerve) which causes dentin hypersensitivity.
- A Growing Discomfort – If you notice that your teeth hurt when you brush, chew, floss, or ache without reason, this could mean that you’re developing tooth sensitivity. It’s important to nip the problem in the bud, meaning that you should take action as soon as you experience symptoms (see below for simple measures you can take to mitigate tooth sensitivity).
- Hots And Colds – If you begin to experience unpleasant symptoms whenever ingesting hot or cold food, this too could mean that you’re beginning to develop tooth sensitivity.
- Sugars & Sours – If your teeth react when you eat anything sugary, sour, or high in acidity, then it’s definitely time to evaluate your current dental health.
Being that tooth sensitivity can have a variety of causes, it’s important that you take immediate action once you begin to feel any tooth pain or discomfort. You don’t want to procrastinate only for the symptoms to worsen later on!
Other Risk Factors
Outside of the typical symptoms, there are other risk factors that can contribute to your teeth sensitivity. It’s important to highlight both tooth sensitivity symptoms and the issues that can occur in tandem.
- Not Enough Fluoride – Fluoride is a natural mineral, one that helps prevent cavities and can protect your enamel. It’s a common ingredient in many kinds of toothpaste and mouthwashes. However, it could be that you’re just not getting enough! Be sure to note where your fluoride supply is coming from.
- Poor Oral Hygiene – Oftentimes, it’s simply brushing and flossing regularly that will help curb your teeth sensitivity. With that being said, a lack of good oral hygiene and dental upkeep can result in the symptoms addressed in this article. Listen to your dentist and stay persistent with your brushing and flossing!
- Worn Fillings – Fillings can decay (just like teeth). In the case that your symptoms are sporadic or severe, it could be that one of your fillings needs to be refilled.
- Heartburn – Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—otherwise known as heartburn—can cause stomach acid to rise to your mouth. In this case, the acid can compromise your enamel—which leaves your dentin exposed. This, of course, needs medical attention and your dentist might recommend that you visit a gastroenterologist.
- Eating Disorders – Eating disorders that constantly cause someone to vomit can yield the same effects as the above heartburn. Once again, the acid from inside the stomach eats away at the enamel, which compromises the dentin and becomes the gateway to tooth sensitivity. Should you have an eating disorder in tandem with experiencing these symptoms, then the issues could be linked.
- Receding Gums – If you’ve noticed that your gum tissue is beginning to recede, you could be at risk for periodontal disease and your dentins are likely exposed; meaning the tubules are like open passageways for heat, cold, and food particles to reach your tooth’s nerve. It could be that the two issues are linked, should you be facing the above symptoms.
What You Can Do
Thankfully, most times (barring anything graver like cavities, gum disease, or cracks in your teeth), proper tooth sensitivity treatment requires little more than being proactive about your oral hygiene.
And here at ToothShower, we offer a water flosser that can streamline this process and help you keep your gum tissue and teeth healthy! Being that you can keep it in the shower, it’s convenient, effective, and resourceful. And, seeing as you can control the temperature and pressure, it’s perfect for those that have sensitive teeth and need to keep up a good oral hygiene regimen. Remember that you need to be diligent about your routine and process, especially if you’re experiencing discomfort!
Lastly, it’s important to address these issues with your dentist to see if you need further dental treatment. Make an appointment or bring it up in your next cleaning. You don’t want your toothache or sudden tooth sensitivity to manifest into something worse!
- Everyday Health. Dental Health. 10 Biggest Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
- Mayo Clinic. Cavities/tooth decay.
- ADA. Sensitive Teeth Causes and Treatment.