The dentin layer of tooth is covered by a hard coating called cementum at the roots and enamel at the exposed portion. Dentin which is also hard is filled with microscopic channels called tubules.
The inner portion of the tooth is called the pulp which is the living part containing blood vessels and nerves. If the enamel or cementum get worn out or damaged, dentin is exposed, which simultaneously exposes the nerves through the tubules. When the nerves are exposed, irritation and stimulation of the teeth happens, leading to sensitive teeth.
Signs & Symptoms of Sensitive Teeth
Symptoms of sensitive teeth are generally reflected through an increased sensitivity to heat and cold. The person may also experience abnormal tooth pain when biting or chewing food, redness or swelling of the gums, toothache and fever.
Sensitivity may be aggravated when one bites sweets, chocolates or candy, eats ice-cream and watermelon fruit or drinks cold or refrigerated beverages. While consuming all such foods, if you experience a sharp and sudden pain shooting through the affected tooth, it is quite likely to be a case of sensitive teeth.
Cold beverages with sugar cause more pain compared to cold water or sugarless beverages. Similarly hot drinks like coffee or tea can also cause shooting pain. If pain is felt when the tooth is touched by tongue, finger or by tooth brush, you can definitely assume that the symptoms point to sensitive tooth. Occasionally even inhaling cold air causes tooth pain and the condition is more noticeable during winter.
Pain due to sensitive teeth is felt intermittently and if the pain is constant, it could mean something more serious. In such cases, it is important to consult a doctor immediately. If the sensitivity is due to tooth decay, spots on the teeth are observed in addition to intermittent pain. These spots are holes or pits, which happen as a result of tooth decay.
Causes of Sensitive Teeth
Damage to the coating of the teeth can occur due to tooth decay, erosion of tooth enamel or tooth trauma. The major culprit in most cases of tooth decay is poor oral hygiene.
When tooth is regularly exposed to stomach acid as a result of gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) it can lead to erosion of tooth enamel, too. Yet another cause of enamel wearing out is brushing the teeth with a hard-bristled tooth brush.
Tooth trauma, on the other hand, is the result of mouth injury, biting food too hard or from teeth grinding and this ultimately results in tooth wear. Even cracked teeth and a receding gum line can result in sensitive teeth.
It may also occur due to use of teeth whitening products and some brands of toothpaste. Sensitive teeth as such do not require immediate medical attention, but when left without any treatment, it can easily lead to cavities and associated complications.
It is important to identify if your teeth are sensitive and seek the help of a dentist at once. Understanding the signs and symptoms of sensitive teeth can help you identify if you suffer from this condition.
Although these symptoms may appear occasionally in the beginning, their frequency increases as time goes by and the underlying tooth decay proceeds further. Therefore, take care that you do not neglect these signs of sensitive teeth; rather, opt for good dental care as soon as you begin to notice them.