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Why Hot and Cold Temperatures Cause Tooth Sensitivity

By Dr. Rohinton J. Patel on April 13, 2017

A woman with a toothacheTooth sensitivity and any sort of acute dental pain is often the sign of a dental problem of some kind. Whenever a patient at our Honolulu dental care center mentions sensitivity or discomfort, we always take these matters seriously. By using advanced restorative dentistry treatments, we can prevent major health issues from occurring.

Let's take a moment to go over the common causes of tooth sensitivity that's triggered by hot and cold temperatures. To understand these issues, let's first consider the structure/anatomy of a tooth.

The Anatomy of a Tooth

Every tooth has three basic layers. The layers are as follows:

  • The Enamel Layer – The topmost layer of a tooth, enamel is sturdy. In fact, it's one of the hardest substances in the entire human body.

  • The Dentin Layer – The dentin layer of the tooth is just under the enamel layer. It's porous rather than totally solid, and the pores in the dentin are known as dentinal tubules.

  • The Pulp Chamber – In the center of each tooth is a hollow chamber that is filled with a substance known as dental pulp. This pulp is comprised of connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves that were essential for the initial formation and maturation of a tooth.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity and Pain

In basic terms, when enamel is breached or worn away and more of the dentin layer of a tooth is exposed, you are more likely to experience tooth sensitivity as a result of hot and cold temperatures as well as pressure exerted on a tooth.

Cavities, Fractures, and Dental Erosion

When your teeth are damaged or decayed, or if the enamel is worn down, that leads to added sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. Having some soup or some ice cream can be excruciating rather than enjoyable.

The ideal option for treating these problems is to use dental restorations to rebuild the damaged tooth structure. Dental restorations such as fillings, inlays, onlays, and crowns help improve the structure of a tooth and prevent further damage from occurring.

Issues with Dental Restorations

Dental restorations are helpful, but when they wear down or do not fit right, they can cause a number of problems. When you have a poorly fit dental restoration, it can lead to hot or cold food items to make contact with the underlying layers of a tooth, leading to sensitivity.

The best option for dealing with dental restoration problems is to have the flawed restoration replaced or repaired. This can alleviate a number of problems that you may be experiencing.

Gum Recession and Exposed Tooth Roots

Your gums conceal the root structure of your teeth, which lead down into your jawbone. The roots have less enamel in place than the top portion of the tooth (the crown). When the roots are exposed, they are more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures.

The best way to treat gum recession is undergo gum grafting. This procedure involves donor soft tissue or artificial gum grafts being placed along the gumline to rebuild the missing tissue.

Side Effects from Teeth Whitening

During teeth whitening treatment, a bleaching agent is applied to the teeth. This bleaching agent often penetrates the tooth enamel and gets down near the dentin. This leads to the dentinal tubules experiencing heightened sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.

Thankfully this sensitivity is only temporary, lasting a day or so after teeth whitening treatment. Patients are asked to avoid hot or cold foods and beverages in the early day or so after teeth whitening to avoid discomfort.

Learn More About Your Dental Care Options

For more information about treating tooth sensitivity and improving your overall wellness, be sure to contact our cosmetic and restorative dentistry center today. The team at our practice is here to help you smile with renewed confidence.

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