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Does Tooth Sensitivity Always Equal Cavities?

We’ve all been there. We bite down on something and that shooting nerve pain stops us in our tracks. Maybe you’ve been feeling it lately when you brush your teeth. If you have tooth sensitivity, you’re probably dreading that trip to the dentist because you know you have cavities, and if you can feel them, that means they’re probably pretty deep, right?

Not always! While pain and sensitivity can definitely mean cavities, it doesn’t always mean that. In fact, we have patients who get a surprised look on their face when we tell them they have no cavities because they were absolutely positive they had at least one, if not more. In these cases, we like to ask some questions to find out why they might be feeling some recurring tooth sensitivity. 

Let’s explore some of the other common reasons you may be feeling tooth sensitivity!

Reason #1 – Worn Down Tooth Enamel

This is extremely common, and it’s usually the first thing we check when a patient mentions tooth sensitivity. All of our teeth are covered in a hard enamel, which protects the softer interior from being exposed to “the elements” e.g. cold liquids, sugar, acid, etc. 

Keeping your enamel in tip top shape is key. Don’t brush too hard, limit your soda intake, as well as other sugary, sticky, or high-acidity foods and drinks. If you grind your teeth, it is time to get a mouthguard (especially at night) and consider putting those at-home whitening treatments on hold. Many of them can be damaging not only to your enamel, but also to your gums!

Reason #2 – Shrinking Gums

As we get older, our gums become less supple. They start to pull away from the tooth, and in more extreme cases, can expose a bit of the root that used to be protected. It should come as no surprise that this can be pretty painful! 

If you suspect your gums may be shrinking, we’d love to have you come in to see us. First, we want to make sure there’s no gum disease that we need to address. Secondly, we can see if there are any restorative treatments that may help address the gum degradation so you can live a more pain-free life.

Reason #3 – Cavities

Okay, so we know we said tooth sensitivity doesn’t always equal cavities… but sometimes it does! The reason you are feeling pain and sensitivity may be due to tooth decay. Coming in for an exam is really the only way to know for sure, and it is so important that you don’t wait too long to call us. 

Untreated tooth decay can lead to infection, which may require a root canal or even an extraction. So, while we don’t always find a cavity when you’ve been dealing with tooth sensitivity, it’s better to be safe than sorry and get it checked out as soon as possible! 

So What Can You Do?

If you have tooth sensitivity, but you can’t make it into the dentist right away, there are a few things you can do. First, we highly recommend brushing with a toothpaste that is made specifically for sensitive teeth. There are a lot of good ones out there, so grab one and see if it brings you some relief! 

Next, you want to make sure to cut down on all triggering foods and beverages. Anything too cold, too sugary, too acidic, or too diuretic (like alcohol) can make the situation worse. Eat soft foods, brush gently, and look for a mouthwash that helps to build enamel. Ultimately, though, you’re going to need to make an appointment with your dentist. It’s the only way to rule out something serious and get specific recommendations based on your tooth sensitivity issues.

Preventing cavities starts with regular dental exams and cleanings. If it’s time for your next appointment, give us a call today at 708-460-6699 or click here to request your appointment!

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