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Tooth Nerve Pain: Triggers & Treatment

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If you've ever had tooth nerve pain, you will know how the saying "strike a raw nerve" came to be. 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 signal 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.

How Tooth Nerve Pain Occurs

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.

How Tooth Sensitivity Occurs

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 exposure to certain foods and drinks. However, nerve pain is caused by exposing an area nearer to the tooth nerve. In contrast, sensitivity is caused by exposure further from the nerve, out on the tooth surface.

Which Foods You Should Avoid

You can calm an irritated tooth nerve by avoiding those foods and drinks that caused the irritation, as stated above. These include:

  • Hot beverages (coffees and teas)
  • Cold beverages (fizzy drinks cause sensitivity and erode enamel.
  • 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, sweets, pastries) and beverages.

How to Treat Tooth Nerve Pain

There are a few things you can do to treat your nerve pain effectively. The most important tactic is to see your dentist. They can give you an oral exam and determine where and how your pain is occurring. They will also generally recommend that you:

  • Properly brush your teeth, taking care not to erode your enamel
  • Use a soft-bristled brush
  • Use toothpaste for sensitive teeth.

Don't be nervous when your favourite 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've certainly got nerves of steel.

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