Tooth Sensitive to Hot or Cold? It Could Be Cracked

Tooth Sensitive to Hot or Cold? It Could Be Cracked

Tooth sensitivity may signal a minor problem that’s easily fixed. Or it could be a red flag alerting you to a serious problem like an infection or abscess. Either way, scheduling a dental exam is the only way to determine the cause of your tooth sensitivity.

If you have cracked teeth or an infection, the problem only gets worse without treatment. Seeing Robert Scott Nance, DDS, at Comprehensive Endodontics can make the difference between saving or losing a tooth.

Reasons for tooth sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity refers to pain that occurs when a substance touches your teeth. Sugary, hot, and cold foods and beverages most often trigger the discomfort. 

You could develop sensitivity to the touch of a toothbrush or alcohol-based mouth rinses. It’s also common to experience temporary sensitivity after getting your teeth whitened.

A cracked tooth — often a crack you can’t see — is one of the top causes of tooth sensitivity. If you don’t have a cracked tooth, the problem could develop due to:

Though the enamel covering the outside of your teeth is incredibly hard, it slowly erodes if you grind your teeth, brush too hard, or regularly consume acidic foods and beverages such as citrus juice, sodas, and sour candies. 

How a cracked tooth causes sensitivity

It only takes a slight crack in the surface to cause sensitivity and pain. Here’s how that happens:

Hot, cold, and other substances reach the pulp

A crack in the enamel lets hot, cold, acidic, and sweet substances travel into the dentin (the tissue underneath the tooth’s enamel). From there, tiny channels in dentin carry the substance directly to the pulp.

The pulp, which is in the center of each tooth and travels down through the tooth root, contains nerves and blood vessels. These nerves trigger sudden pain as soon as they’re irritated by the substances you consume.

The pain is usually brief and goes away. However, if your pain lingers after exposure to triggering substances, it’s a sign you have a more serious problem in the pulp.

Weak enamel leads to pulp irritation

Cracks weaken the enamel and then the intense pressure from chewing causes slight movement in the tooth’s normally solid cover. As the movement irritates dentin and pulp, you experience pain until you stop chewing. Ongoing irritation leads to pulp inflammation.

Bacteria get through the crack

If hot and cold substances can get through the crack, so can bacteria. When bacteria make their way into the pulp, you’re headed for a painful pulp infection (abscessed tooth).

Preventing and treating tooth sensitivity

The best way to prevent sensitivity is with good oral hygiene and getting regular dental checkups. Though you should brush twice daily and floss at least once, it’s also important to be gentle to ensure harsh brushing doesn’t affect the enamel or your gums.

Once sensitivity develops, schedule a dental checkup so you can get the underlying problem treated before it leads to pulp problems. If you have sensitivity without a dental problem, using a desensitizing toothpaste or fluoride treatment often solves the problem.

Treating a cracked tooth

The best treatment for a cracked tooth depends on the severity and location of the crack, and whether the pulp is inflamed or infected. As long as you don’t have an infection, a dental crown, veneer, or bonding can cover the crack and restore the tooth’s strength.

Once the pulp is infected or an abscess develops, you need an incision and drainage procedure or a root canal

An incision and drainage procedure allows us to drain the infection and clean the area, leaving your entire tooth intact. During a root canal, we remove the pulp, clean out the infection, and seal the canal. 

Both procedures preserve your natural tooth, though we may need to cover it with a dental crown.

Don’t wait to seek help for tooth sensitivity. Call Comprehensive Endodontics at our Statesville or Hickory, North Carolina, office today.

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