By Drs. Woody Wooddell and Joe Passaro

There is nothing quite like an ice cold, frozen sweet drink on a hot summer’s day. While we’d all like to be able to enjoy these chilly treats, tooth sensitivity can leave you sipping a drink one second and throwing it out the next.

The truth about tooth sensitivity is it can occur during any season. It’s not just prevalent when the ice cream truck starts coming around. In fact, it’s just as common when you eat or drink something hot, sweet, or sour. Sometimes a breath of cold air can set it off. The pain can be sharp and sudden and can shoot deep into the nerves of your teeth. But don’t fret.

A short lasting sensitivity to cold (or hot) foods is often not indicative of a more serious problem. Momentary sensitivity can be caused by a number of things: a loose filling, small decay or minimal gum recession that exposes small areas of the root surface. If sensitivity persists after a few days of regular brushing with sensitive toothpaste, see your dentist.

If you notice sensitivity after you’ve visited the dentist, the pulp of your teeth could be temporarily inflamed. While it’s not necessarily a serious problem, it’s always worth checking out. If the pain you experience from tooth sensitivity worsens or persists after a few weeks, have your dentist check the area that is bothering you.

A lingering pain that lasts more than 30 seconds after eating hot or cold foods could indicate an irreversibly damaged pulp. Often caused by deep decay or physical trauma, it is important that you see your dentist, as root canal treatment may be necessary to save the tooth.

There are a number of things you can try to help relieve your short lasting tooth sensitivity. They include: brushing with desensitizing toothpaste, rinsing with fluoride, using a soft bristle toothbrush, and maintaining clean teeth and good overall oral health. You should notice a decrease in the level of sensitivity after regular use of desensitizing toothpaste.

Fluoride treatment can help as well. It isn’t just for kids. If you’re prone to sensitive teeth, your hygienist may use fluoride varnish to help protect the sensitive areas. Varnish is typically applied at the end of your dental cleaning appointment. You should avoid eating or drinking any hot foods for two hours after the fluoride varnish is applied.

It’s also important to avoid certain foods or habits if you know you’re prone to tooth sensitivity. Try to limit your intake of highly acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and soda. Acidic food can wear at the enamel of your teeth, causing sensitivity to the dentin.

People who grind their teeth can experience sudden tooth sensitivity. Often, grinding or clenching can occur at night, when you may not be aware that you are doing it. This will cause enamel to wear down and expose the underlying dentin, thus causing tooth sensitivity. Your dentist may recommend a night guard or other appliance if you show signs of grinding.

Dr. Woody Wooddell and Dr. Joe Passaro opened the doors to their dental practice in Davidsonville, MD in 1981. In addition to caring for their patients’ dental health by offering general dentistry services, Drs. Wooddell and Passaro provide expert restorative and esthetic dental solutions. Visit their website at or call 410.956.5555 for more information.

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