If you've ever had tooth nerve pain, you now know how the saying "strike a raw nerve" came to be. It's because when a tooth's nerve gets exposed, the resulting sensitivity, discomfort, and pain can be significant for many and overwhelming for some. It can take the pleasure out of enjoying certain foods and beverages and ultimately be a sign of a deeper oral health issue. If any of this sounds familiar and you find eating to be a nerve-wracking experience — consult your dentist so they can find the cause and treatment of your nerve pain.
To understand how your tooth nerve pain occurs, you first must learn a little about your tooth and its surroundings. Enamel coats your teeth above the gumline, while cementum covers it below the gumline. They're both tasked with protecting your dentin. Dentin is a soft, yellowish mineral full of tubules that lead to the pulp of your inner nerve. When dentin is exposed, the nerve can become stimulated, leading to irritation and pain. This pain can be caused by ingesting:
- Hot and cold foods and beverages
- Acidic and sugary foods and beverages
Several scenarios can cause tooth sensitivity. According to the American Dental Association, they include:
- Tooth decay (cavities)
- Fractured teeth
- Worn fillings
- Gum disease
- Worn tooth enamel
- Exposed tooth root
Tooth sensitivity can be triggered in the same way as tooth nerve pain — by being exposed to certain foods and drinks. However, nerve pain is the result if the exposure is deeper into the tooth nerve. In contrast, sensitivity is the result further from the nerve, out on the tooth surface.
You can calm an irritated tooth nerve by avoiding those foods and drinks that caused the irritation, as stated above. Those include:
- Hot beverages (coffees and teas)
- Cold beverages (soda causes sensitivity and erodes enamel, according to the University of Nebraska Medical Center)
- Hot foods (allow them to cool)
- Cold foods (no ice cream or other freezer items)
- Acidic foods (pickles, tomatoes, citrus fruits) and beverages
- Sugary foods (cookies, candy, pastries) and beverages
There a few things to do to treat your nerve pain effectively. The most important tactic — see your dentist. They can give you an oral exam and determine where and how your pain is occurring. They'll also recommend you to:
- Properly brush your teeth, being sure not to erode your enamel
- Use a soft-bristled brush
- Use toothpaste for sensitive teeth
Don't be nervous when your favorite foods make their way onto your plate. While food and drink give us nourishment, they also provide enjoyment. So be sure to see your dentist, stay up to date on your oral hygiene, and avoid those foods and drinks that cause nerve pain. If you can do that — you got nerves of steel.