Tooth Sensitivity to Hot and Cold: What it Means

November 7, 2017 — by tbelnap
Tags: General Dentistry Restorative Dentistry

Blonde woman holding her jawTooth sensitivity to hot and cold can occur for numerous reasons. If you notice a sudden change in the way your teeth respond to hot or cold foods or drinks, then it could indicate there is a more serious underlying issue. Fortunately, our doctors at PQ Family Dentistry in Rancho Peñasquitos, CA offer various treatments in restorative and family dentistry to help address these issues and alleviate your discomfort.

Common Reasons for Cold Sensitivity

Sensitivity to cold temperature is common, and can be triggered by several different factors. Cold sensitivity can be caused by:

  • A Damaged Restoration: A fractured or leaky dental filling or dental crown can expose nerves, leading to pain and discomfort.
  • Gum Recession: When the gums recede, the roots of the teeth are exposed, causing significant sensitivity. Gum recession can be age-related, or it can be caused by periodontal disease or brushing too aggressively.
  • A Fractured Tooth: If a tooth is broken, chipped, or fractured, nerves inside the tooth can become exposed.
  • Periodontal Disease: Gum disease leads to other dental issues, including severe gum recession. Exposed roots and nerves can lead to substantial cold sensitivity.
  • Tooth Erosion: The wearing away of the enamel, or tooth erosion, can be caused by bruxism (teeth grinding). Because the dentin is typically exposed in these cases, cold sensitivity can occur.
  • Open Contacts: Although usually not a serious concern, spaces or gaps between the teeth can sometimes cause sensitivity or discomfort.
  • Nerve Injury: Any time the pulp chamber or nerves inside the tooth structure become inflamed or damaged, pain can develop. In most cases, root canal therapy is necessary to address the issue.
  • New Restoration: After receiving a new restoration, such as a dental filling or crown, it is normal to experience some degree of sensitivity. This sensation can linger for several weeks, and should not be a cause for concern.
  • Tooth Decay: If a cavity reaches deep enough into the tooth structure, cold sensitivity can develop due to exposed nerves.

Common Reasons for Hot Sensitivity

Heat sensitivity is not as common. This type of pain typically indicates that a nerve inside your tooth has died or is in the process of dying. This means the blood flow and the nerve inside the tooth has been compromised. In these cases, root canal therapy is typically the recommended course of action. This straightforward treatment can be performed in about one hour.

Treatments for Sensitive Teeth

Because the reasons for tooth sensitivity are varied, specific treatment will be determined by your unique situation. The most common treatments for hot and cold sensitivity include:

  • Fluoride: This in-office treatment is applied to the surfaces of the teeth to strengthen enamel and reduce sensitivity.
  • Desensitizing Toothpaste: These products are effective in reducing tooth sensitivity when used consistently. Special ingredients in the toothpaste block the transmission of sensations from the nerve to the surface of the tooth.
  • Restorative Dentistry: If there is a flaw or imperfection that is causing sensitivity, it can be addressed with restorative treatment. This can include dental fillings, crowns, inlays, onlays, bonding, or root canal therapy.
  • Surgical Gum Graft: If gum recession is the identifiable cause of sensitivity, then a gum graft can protect the exposed tooth roots, reducing sensitivity and promoting a healthy smile.

Contact Us Today

If you would like to learn more about tooth sensitivity, schedule a consultation with one of our doctors. Call our office at (858) 484-9222 or contact us online.