Have you ever taken a bite of delicious ice cream only for a wave of pain to emanate through your teeth? If eating or drinking anything hot or cold does this to you, then you might have sensitive teeth. How exactly is this situation treated? Normally, you could visit your dentist, but because of COVID-19, most dentists are only treating emergency patients. Keep reading to learn more about tooth sensitivity and whether you should see an emergency dentist for treatment.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
Teeth become sensitive when the outermost layer, called enamel, wears thin and exposes the underlying layer, known as dentin. Dentin contains microscopic tubules that lead to the nerves deep within the tooth. When something particularly hot, cold, sweet, or acidic touches these tubules, it sends a jolt of pain through your tooth.
Some common reasons for tooth sensitivity include:
- Brushing your teeth too forcefully. Applying too much pressure with your toothbrush can wear away your enamel.
- Teeth grinding. Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding is a dangerous habit that erodes the outer layer of your teeth.
- Gum disease. Gum disease is often characterized by a dull ache in the teeth, which can sometimes feel like temperature sensitivity.
- Teeth whitening. Sometimes, over-the-counter teeth whitening treatments can irritate and dehydrate your teeth, leaving them feeling sensitive.
- The aging processes. As we get older, our enamel naturally thins, exposing the dentin underneath.
Should You See an Emergency Dentist?
This depends on the severity of your sensitivity. If your discomfort only lasts while you eat something hot or cold, it typically doesn’t warrant emergency treatment. However, if your pain lingers for a while after you consume the offending food or drink, then you may want to consider calling your emergency dentist.
Lingering pain after consuming something sweet, acidic, hot, or cold, especially in just one tooth, may be a sign that you have an infection that has reached the sensitive center of the tooth, called the pulp. You might need root canal therapy to remove the damaged portion and save your tooth from extraction. Whatever the case may be, it’s best to err on the side of caution and call your dentist just in case.
If your tooth sensitivity is minor, try using a toothpaste specifically designed to treat sensitive teeth. If that doesn’t alleviate your discomfort, then contact your emergency dentist.
About the Author
Dr. Ernie Costello is a graduate of the West Virginia University School of Dentistry. He has completed additional post-graduate training in all aspects of dentistry, but especially endodontics, or root canal therapy, to treat specific sensitive teeth. If your sensitive teeth are really bothering you, it may be time to give Dr. Costello a call at his Arlington Heights, IL office by calling (847) 259-1111.