Common symptoms of tooth sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity affects 3 in 5 Australian adults. Its causes and symptoms can vary greatly. This oral condition can affect one or more teeth, and sensations of sensitivity can be momentary or linger. The degree of discomfort experienced can vary from a dull ache to a sharp, intense pain.

Depending on the cause, tooth sensitivity issues need to be addressed because if left untreated, they can worsen, and result in further oral health complications. Only your dentist can correctly identify the symptoms and cause of your tooth sensitivity.

While most cases of tooth sensitivity are mild, as a result of exposed and damaged dentin on a small area of your tooth or teeth, other cases may indicate more serious underlying oral conditions, such as infected tooth pulp or periodontal tissue.

The following list outlines the most common types of tooth sensitivity symptoms, as well as the possible causes for each:

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  • Sudden, momentary sensitivity to hot, cold or acidic foods and beverages – may indicate damaged dentin, worn enamel, mild tooth decay, gum recession, exposed roots, toothbrush abrasion or bruxism (tooth grinding).
  • Long-lasting sensitivity to hot, cold or acidic foods and beverages – may indicate tooth pulp or nerve infection/inflammation, deep tooth decay or physical trauma.
  • Post-treatment sensitivity to hot, cold or acidic foods and beverages – may indicate temporary inflammation, or the short-term side effects of some whitening treatments.
  • Sharp, sudden pain when chewing and biting down on food may indicate loose fillings, chipped/cracked/fractured teeth, tooth pulp infection/inflammation or deep tooth decay.
  • Strong, persistent, non-specific ache or pain in an area around one or more teeth may indicate a tooth abscess, or infection/inflammation of the tooth pulp/nerve.
  • Strong, persistent pain and swelling in gum tissue that is sensitive to pressure and touch may indicate an abscess or a tooth pulp/nerve infection that has infected surrounding periodontal ligaments and tissue.
  • Dull ache and pressure in the upper teeth and sinus may indicate cold/flu symptoms (e.g. sinus congestion) or bruxism (tooth grinding) issues.

No matter what type of tooth sensitivity symptoms you experience, all are linked to oral health conditions that require proper assessment, diagnosis and treatment by your dentist – before they get worse.

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