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Sensitive Teeth and Dental Emergencies

You take a bite of ice cream or drink a hot cup of coffee, and it hits. Tooth sensitivity!   Though a cavity may be the reason, it is only one of several potential causes of toothaches! Tooth sensitivity is something almost everyone will experience at some point in their life. In fact, about half the population experiences tooth sensitivity. It can come and go over time. But when do sensitive teeth mean you need to see the dentist?  We have broken it down for you!

Why Are Teeth Sensitive?

Teeth are covered with a hard layer of protective enamel.  The enamel protects the nerve, but it can become damaged.  Enamel is susceptible to erosion by acid and can be worn down by over-brushing or grinding of teeth, exposing the dentin which opens to the nerve.  Sometimes a crack in the enamel or a loose filling leaves exposure to the dentin as well.  Gum disease can also lead to an infection which attacks the  roots or causes the gum line to recede.

Difference In Sensitive Teeth Triggers


It is not uncommon to have teeth that are sensitive to cold, and does not necessarily mean that you have a  dental problem. But it can be startling and severe, because the only sensation the nerve registers is pain, regardless of the type of stimulus (hot, cold, sweet, etc.) If the dental nerve is agitated, it will hurt. It is important to note the intensity of the pain.  Is it inconvenient, or does it stop you in your tracks?  How long does it take to subside?   If the pain is mild, you could try a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. Pain that lingers can mean there may be a more serious underlying problem that mean a visit to the dentist is in order.


Teeth that are sensitive to hot are more of a concern.  Dr. Akano of the University of Utah states, “Hot sensitivity could indicate the nerve inside the tooth is starting to go bad.” One of the symptoms is a period of time when there is sensitivity to heat. Another symptom is a widespread pulsating pain that may make it hard to determine which exact tooth is the culprit of the pain. If  your tooth is highly sensitive for more than three or four days and reacts to both hot and cold, it’s best to get an evaluation from your dentist to determine the extent of the problem and prevent dental emergency.


It is well known that sweets are not good for teeth.  A tooth that is sensitive to sweets may mean the tooth has a cavity.  Bacteria in the mouth feed on sugary substances and leave behind acids that erode the enamel.  That is why it is important to brush regularly and limit sweets. Acid foods like lemons and tomatoes can have the same effect.  It is best to wait an hour after having an acidic food to brush because during that time, the enamel is at its softest.

Other Causes

Other causes of sensitivity can be recent dental treatment, but this usually goes away with a week or two.  An adjustment in your bite can or tooth whitening products can cause sensitivity as well. It can be hard to pinpoint exact causes on your own.  At Emergency Dental we are always ready to help you!  Call us today!

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