Tooth sensitive to hot or cold? What it means, and how to help
There you are, enjoying your morning coffee, when a sudden jolt of pain comes from one of your teeth. As unpleasant, painful and disruptive to your morning routine as it is, a tooth sensitive to hot food or drink can be more than a minor inconvenience.
A change in the way your teeth react to hot and cold often means there's something more going on in your mouth. Identifying the cause of this sudden pain can go a long way with helping resolve the issue so you can go back to your morning routine.
Causes of sensitivity
The pain or sensitivity you feel can be attributed to a number of oral health issues. Consider these potential causes, all of which can help you (and your dental professional) address the problem efficiently:
- Enamel erosion: Teeth are protected by enamel, which is their first defense against hot, cold, and abrasive items. When this enamel wears away, dentine (the layer found under enamel) is exposed which provides a pathway to the sensitive nerves within the pulp of the teeth. Enamel can become weaker with an acidic diet.
- Cavities: When cavities form, the inner structure of your tooth is exposed so cavities – both big and small – can cause teeth to be sensitive, as well. In fact, sensitivity to hot and cold foods is often a warning sign that a cavity is forming and it's very important to make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible. Similarly, fillings that are placed to repair cavities can, on occasion, become loose or fall out, causing sensitivity and a visit to the dental practitioner will be required for replacement.
- Receding gums: Beneath your enamel and under the cementum of the tooth root, your teeth are made another material called dentine, which can be sensitive as it contains tiny tubes that are connected to the pulp of the tooth. When dentine is exposed it makes the tooth more susceptible to sensitivity. When gums recede, the dentine is exposed, and therefore can result in sensitivity to hot, cold and sweet stimuli.
Regardless of the cause, a tooth sensitive to hot or cold may indicate an underlying problem that may need prompt care by a dentist if pain persists. Ask your dental professional for their advice to see whether these may be suitable for you:
Specialty sensitivity toothpaste
Colgate® Sensitive Pro-Relief™ sensitivity toothpaste contains powerful Pro-Argin® technology to help seal and repair the sensitive areas of the teeth. Sensitivity toothpastes can be purchased over the counter, but it is still important to discuss the condition with your dentist.
When you'll need clinical treatment
If sensitivity pain is the result of something more complex, you'll need professional care to address the problem. Therefore, your dentist may need to fill a cavity, replace an existing filling or apply a suitable restoration over exposed nerves to provide pain relief.
Root canal treatment
In some cases, tooth pain can be the result of a problem deep inside the tooth. If this is the cause of your tooth pain or sensitivity, your dentist may suggest a root canal treatment. The modern procedure simply cleans out the root canals of the tooth, and they are then filled with a material called gutta-percha before being restored and possibly crowned. Of course, caring for your teeth through a regular oral hygiene routine can help stave off sensitivity pain due to decay and other problems. Even with the best hygiene routine, however, tooth pain can result from a cracked tooth or wear and tear. With professional advice from your dental professional, you can come up with a solution that results in healthy teeth – and comfort when having your morning coffee.
This page/article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment. Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.
For instant relief, apply directly to sensitive tooth with fingertip for one minute. For lasting relief, brush twice daily.
†Repairs with twice daily brushing to block the channels leading to sensitive teeth.