It's no fun when teeth can't handle hot or cold temperatures, but when you have a tooth sensitive to pressure, there could be more structural issues at play. Whether you're eating, speaking or brushing your teeth, the cause of this sensitivity is often unknown – but there are ways to cope with it. Here's how to manage your tooth pain and how your dentist may be able to provide relief.
How It Occurs
Tooth sensitivity, or dentin hypersensitivity, happens when gums recede from the tooth, when enamel wears away or when fillings become cracked, broken or missing to expose the irritable dentin underneath. When the cementum on the surface of the root is worn away, however, the dentin – as well as the nerves and cells inside the tooth – can cause pain by eating any food that presses against them.
Common causes of tooth sensitivity include brushing too hard, using a hard-bristled toothbrush and applying tooth-whitening products. You may also feel pressure sensitivity due to a broken tooth, tooth decay, a tooth abscess, tooth-grinding or eating acidic foods. Hidden cracks or fractures can also cause discomfort to the tooth when biting down.
Dentin hypersensitivity is one of the most frequently encountered tooth problems, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but it's one issue you don't want to ignore. In some cases, a simple in-office densensitizing therapy can provide you instant relief. If you have a tooth that needs to be refilled, or a crown that needs to be replaced, these applications can take care of your sensitivity as well.
In more advanced cases, a sharp pain when biting down or lingering irritation after eating hot or cold foods can signal decay or damage to the pulp inside your tooth, which may require a root canal to clean it out. After this dentist visit, ask how you can follow your treatment by using special fluoride gel, rinse or toothpaste at home to make your tooth less sensitive over the long term.
What You Can Do
In addition to seeing your dentist regularly for checkups, it's also important to stay on top of your oral hygiene by brushing, flossing and rinsing with a fluoride mouthwash every day. Avoiding your dental care can only worsen your tooth pain, causing decay to spread into areas within the tooth. When brushing your teeth, of course, be sure to use only gentle pressure and a soft-bristled toothbrush to keep from unintentionally wearing down your gums. Opt for a toothbrush such as Colgate® Enamel Health Sensitive, which uses extra-soft polishing bristles that can replenish weak spots in tooth enamel and ultimately strengthen your teeth.
If you're suffering from a tooth sensitive to pressure, a cracked filling or any kind of tooth pain, rest assured these problems can be addressed by your dentist and through routine personal care. Talk about alternative options that would work for you: a prescription toothpaste, mouth rinse, an electric toothbrush with pressure sensors or something similar. The sooner you get to your dentist's office, the sooner you can find relief.