When most people think of tooth sensitivity, they think of teeth that are sensitive to hot or cold foods and beverages. For most, the go-to solution for this type of tooth sensitivity is to gently brush with desensitising fluoride toothpaste. While this treatment option is excellent, not all cases of tooth sensitivity respond to it. That’s because there may be other causes, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Here are some common types of tooth sensitivity symptoms, and their links to underlying oral health issues:
- Sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet or sour foods and drinks – this is the most common type of tooth sensitivity. It usually means that wherever the sensitivity occurs, the enamel in that area is worn, and the dentin and nerve within the tooth are exposed. There are several brands of desensitising toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Try using a soft-bristled brush and fluoridated mouthwash, and avoid sweet or acidic foods and beverages. If symptoms persist, visit your dentist. Other causes include tooth decay, recessed gums and tooth grinding, which all require different dental treatment.
- Lingering sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet or sour foods and drinks – if your sensitivity lasts longer a long time, like minutes or hours, book a dental visit as soon as possible. You’ve probably got more serious oral health issues at stake, such as a tooth pulp infection, an abscess, deep decay or physical trauma. In the case of dying or dead tooth pulp tissue, root canal treatment may be required to save the tooth.
- Post-dental treatment sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet or sour foods and drinks. Dental treatment can irritate tooth pulp tissue, and teeth whitening treatment may result in increased tooth sensitivity – though only temporarily. Try mild pain medication, and if sensitivity lasts longer than a few days, see your dentist.
- Acute pain when biting down and chewing on food. This type of sharp stabbing pain may mean you may have a chipped or fractured tooth that is moving against your tooth pulp and nerve. Other possible causes are tooth decay and a loose filling. Seek dental attention as soon as possible, to have your dentist diagnose the problem before the condition worsens.
- Acute, lingering, non-specific pain in an area that includes more than one tooth. If you can’t pinpoint the source of pain in a localised area, and if the pain is constant and spreads, you may have a tooth infection with infected tooth pulp. See your dentist as soon as possible. In the case of dying or dead tooth pulp tissue, root canal treatment may be required to save the tooth.
- Constant strong pain and swelling in an area of gum that is sensitive to touch and pressure. Your tooth pulp may have an infection or abscess that has spread into the surrounding periodontal tissue. See your dentist as soon as possible. Over-the-counter pain medication can help minimise the pain until you are treated.
- Dull ache in the upper teeth and sinus pressure. The sinus area shares the same nerves as your upper teeth. As such, the source of pain and discomfort in this area may be difficult to identify, since you can mistake one for the other. That means upper tooth pain may be a result of sinus congestion from a cold or flu. However tooth grinding and clenching (bruxism) may also be a possible cause. Consult either your dentist or doctor to diagnose your condition, if symptoms persist.