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ASK YOUR DENTIST 32 - Tooth sensitivity

“Dear doctor,

I have a problem that is on again and off again, and I don’t know what to do with it. My teeth are sometimes very sensitive to warm foods and warmth in general makes them act up. They otherwise do not hurt, are totally, clean, not discolored at all, and are doing just fine. This has been going on for months now, and I usually eat cold foods, so I don’t feel it that much, except during supper, which is usually warm. I have heard of tooth sensitivity, and I understand that usually teeth only react to the cold in those cases. But mine only reacts to warm things. What could this problem be? Is it serious? Should I see a dentist, or is this just one more thing we can chalk up to the discomfort of old age?”


Dear Finn,

In our day and age, you do not ever need to live with discomfort and pain, regardless of how old you are, and what kind of problems you may have developed. Tooth sensitivity is no exception. You have heard some correct things and some incorrect things, and I want to straighten things out for you a bit.

Dentine hypersensitivity, or “tooth sensitivity” as you called it, can be to any sort of stimulus, it means that the dentine is exposed, or there is not enough tooth enamel covering it, and it is reacting with the outside world in the only way it knows how- by causing you tons of pain. When your teeth react to only warmth though, you are in big trouble.

sensitivity tooth

This means that not only is there a bacterial infection on your tooth, and the warmth makes the bacteria stir and breed which causes you pain, but it is also a sign of a dead tooth. That tooth is no longer alive, and the tissues around it are sending out distress signals that they do only when warmth is introduced. This means you will definitely have to have an extraction to get rid of your painful and infected tooth, and you may even have to go on a course of antibiotics to deal with the infection, and to make sure that your condition does not get worse.

You need to see a dentist right away, as soon as possible. If you do not get that tooth extracted and the infection that has developed around it solved, you will start to have periodontitis, and what’s worse, this infection can seriously hurt the teeth around the one that is periodically “acting up”. Do not let this go on as these types of teeth can start to hurt a lot and incapacitate your life.


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