Reasons for Extreme Tooth Sensitivity
At certain points in your life, you are highly likely to have brought a spoonful of hot soup to your lips, or taken a bite out of an ice cream cone or sandwich, and suddenly felt a sharp pain in your tooth (or in more than one). You pause for a minute to recover from the pain and surprise, but then you simply shrug the experience off as something that always happens when you eat hot or cold foods, and continue eating.
Tooth Sensitivity Due to Temperature
Experiencing some sensitivity to hot, cold or acidic foods is quite common, but as any reputable dentist will tell you, it’s possible that you may need to be a bit more concerned about what the pain could be telling you. If you feel this pain in your teeth and you have a few other symptoms at the same time (examples are swollen gums, loose teeth or significant pain while chewing), then you may be more than just plain sensitive — you could be experiencing extreme tooth sensitivity.
To understand why you experience extreme tooth sensitivity, it helps to learn about the different parts of your tooth:
- The crown is the part of the teeth found above the gumline. A layer of protective enamel covers the crown.
- The root is the part of the teeth found below the gumline. It also has a protective coating like enamel, but it is called cementum.
- Underneath both the enamel and cementum, there is a less dense coating called the dentin. The dentin becomes exposed whenever the first two layers become damaged or begins to wear away.
- When the dentin is exposed (because of receding gums), the microscopic canals called tubules that are found in the dentin allow fluids to flow in them. These tubules are affected by heat and cold, and their reactions to temperature cause the tooth’s nerves to experience pain and sensitivity.
The Main Cause
The problem begins when the protective coatings of enamel and cementum start wearing away from the teeth. Often, this is the result of brushing the teeth too aggressively or consuming too many foods and beverages that are highly acidic. In other cases, people who overuse teeth whitening products also aggravate the loss of the protective layers.
For individuals with extreme teeth sensitivity, however, the major culprits are tooth decay, tooth fractures, or worn fillings which all cause more dentin to become exposed.
What are the Best Solutions?
The simplest and most effective way to address teeth sensitivity is to see dentist who can treat the underlying dental problem (gum disease, tooth decay or damage that requires a new crown, etc.) that is causing the exposure of the dentin. Some patients who have lost gum tissue around the roots might undergo a surgical gum graft. For more severe hypersensitivity cases, a dentist might recommend root canal to remove the nerves that are causing the pain.
Your dentist may prescribe the use of desensitizing toothpaste to help protect the tooth surface and provide pain relief.