The Challenges of Dentistry (Part 3)

Parts one and two of this series dealt with decay and the various ways you can control it. Now it is time to discuss sensitivity, a challenge we face in our patients every day.

Tooth sensitivity comes in many forms. You can’t afford to overlook any on them.  Sensitivity is telling you there may be a problem with your teeth.  Sensitivity to temperature, biting, chewing, or sweets can mean different things.  Let’s go over each one.

If a tooth is sensitive to sweets, it generally means there is decay present somewhere. With this problem, we just need to find the decay and restore the tooth.  It is important to repair the decayed area before the decay gets too large.  As decay spreads it can cause long term sensitivity, excessive loss of tooth structure, infection and even tooth loss.  Get that sweet sensitivity checked out!

Sensitivity to biting or chewing can signal any one of several issues. The biggest issue causing sensitivity to biting or chewing is infection.  When a tooth becomes infected, or abscessed, it is tender to bite on and often feels like the tooth is being pushed out of its position.  Abscessed teeth need root canals or extractions.  If your tooth aches spontaneously, it generally means an infection is present.  The sooner the infection is diagnosed the sooner an antibiotic can be started.  This can often avoid an extended period of pain and swelling.

Sensitivity to biting or chewing can also mean there is a crack in the tooth or the way the teeth are coming together is causing pressure on a tooth. It can also signal infection is present. If the tooth is cracked a crown is usually needed.  This must be done before the tooth breaks or before the crack extends to the nerve.  If the tooth breaks it may not leave enough tooth to restore.  In that case, the tooth will be lost.  If the crack reaches the nerve, the tooth will either need a root canal or it may need to be extracted.  If you are having pain or sensitivity when you bite or chew, it is imperative that you get it checked immediately to avoid additional costs or potential tooth loss.

Often sensitivity while chewing is due to the teeth not fitting together properly. This problem can be caused by clenching, grinding, or a new or faulty restoration.  The solution to these issues can be anything from a minor bite adjustment to a bite splint or possibly a new restoration.

Now you know what is going on if your teeth are sensitive to biting, chewing or sweets. You also know that these issues need to be checked out before more problems occur.  Next time I’ll cover tooth sensitivity to temperature. Of course this can signal problems too, so don’t forget to read my next installment.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Bruce