Is a Sensitive Tooth the Same as a Toothache?

sensitive tooth

Cold foods can make us more aware of tooth sensitivity. Sometimes a sensitive tooth is a minor inconvenience, and can be prevented by changes in diet. If it becomes annoying, there are steps you can take at home (for example, changing your toothpaste) that may help. When your tooth sensitivity has come on suddenly, contact your dentist for an appointment. If problems are detected early, it may be possible to save a tooth. A dental implant or dental bridge can maintain correct tooth alignment, when a tooth must be replaced.

When it comes to your dental health, most things occur in different stages. For instance, what eventually becomes a severely aching tooth could start off as a tooth that just seems a little bit sensitive. In many cases, dental discomfort becomes severe because patients often ignore or choose to endure minor irritations. Most tooth sensitivities should be at least examined by a dentist. The only difference between slight sensitivity and severe discomfort is often time.

Why Teeth Become Sensitive

The main structure of your tooth, called dentin, is a little bit like bone in that its slightly porous, which allows sensory information to travel from the dentin to the tooth’s nerves. When healthy, however, a tooth’s dentin is protected by highly mineralized tooth enamel, which is so resilient that it prevents your tooth’s dentin from feeling anything. One of the most common reasons for a tooth growing gradually more sensitive is the wearing down or weakening of tooth enamel. This can be caused by a developing cavity, unchecked bruxism, or a wide variety of other potential causes, and treating your condition will be the key to relieving your tooth’s sensitivity.

From Sensitivity to Toothaches

Because dental issues are progressive, they grow worse the longer they’re left untreated. That means the sensitivity in your tooth is going to grow more severe, as well, until it becomes a severe and unmistakable toothache. The more your tooth hurts, the more of your tooth is compromised, and the more extensive treatment you may need to fully restore it.

Why Teeth Are Sensitive

The outer layer of each tooth is a hard shell of enamel, without nerve endings. Beneath this shell is the dentin layer, which is somewhat sensitive. At the heart of the tooth is the pulp, and this area does have nerve endings. Factors that may increase your reaction to heat and cold against a tooth include:

  • Brushing too vigorously, which exposes the more sensitive root area of a tooth
  • Receding gums (which also expose the root)
  • Eating or drinking acidic foods (which may thin enamel)
  • Bruxism (tooth grinding) (which can damage tooth enamel)
  • The early stages of a cavity (which is a hole in the enamel layer)
  • The tooth could be dying and requiring a root canal

What About Toothpastes for Sensitive Teeth?

Some people have good results with specially formulated toothpastes, if they are used regularly. Chemicals in these toothpastes help reinforce thinned enamel, and can even fill in microscopic breaks. Since different toothpastes have different formulations (usually compounds of potassium nitrate or strontium chloride) you may need to try several brands. Most take several weeks to provide a change, and must be used regularly to maintain the protections.

Restorative Options

If toothpastes do not give relief, or if the sensitivity has come on suddenly, an office visit is in order. Your dentist can look for an underlying cause of the sensitivity. Perhaps there is an early cavity that needs attention. Microscopic fractures from tooth grinding are a potential source of sensitivity. You can also get help to fine-tune your brushing habits, if over brushing is a problem. We don’t want sensitive teeth to keep you from enjoy cool treats this summer!

Find Out Why Your Tooth Is Sensitive

Even if the discomfort doesn’t seem severe, a sensitive tooth could become just as troublesome as a more intense toothache if you ignore the discomfort. To learn more, schedule a consultation by calling Lake Forest Dental Arts in Lake Forest, IL, at 847-234-0517. We also proudly serve the Chicago Metro area and all surrounding communities.