Does a Sensitive Tooth Mean a Cavity?

Does a Sensitive Tooth Mean a Cavity?

Does a Sensitive Tooth Mean a Cavity?

A small amount of dental sensitivity should not sound the alarms. In fact, it is considered normal. But, if tooth pain keeps you from eating ice cream or enjoying your morning coffee, then it’s time to speak with your dentist. This pain could be attributed to severe sensitivity or a number of other dental issues (that can all be treated).

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity, according to the American Dental Association, is caused by tooth decay, a cracked tooth, worn tooth enamel, worn fillings, and tooth roots that are exposed as a result of aggressive tooth brushing, gum recession, or periodontal (gum) disease. In a report published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “One in eight participants from general practices had dentin hypersensitivity, which was a chronic condition causing intermittent, low-level pain. Patients with hypersensitivity were more likely to be younger, to be female, and to have a high prevalence of gingival recession and at-home tooth whitening.”

But what is the difference between cavity pain and sensitivity?

Dentin is one of the four major components of teeth. It is a tissue within the tooth that is protected by hard enamel (the strongest substance in the body) at the top of the tooth and cementum on the root. A major characteristic of dentin is that it can be sensitive because of the microscopic tubules that connect it to the pulp of the tooth. The pulp houses a tooth’s nerves.

Therefore, if dentin loses its protective armor (enamel and cementum), sensitivity to hot, cold, acidic, and sweet foods could develop because the nerves connected to the dentin are exposed and triggered. Causes of dentin exposure are teeth grinding, gum recession, brushing too hard, and even heartburn.

Cavities are different in that they occur when there is a hole in your enamel, allowing bacteria to enter. Cavities must be professionally treated by a dentist to prevent further decay. Sign and symptoms of a cavity include:

The biggest difference between pain associated with sensitivity and that of a cavity is the latter is often classified as a dull ache rather than sharp pain with sensitivity. Moreover, pain from a cavity won’t necessarily stop after eating or drinking.

In short, sensitivity does not necessarily mean that you have a cavity. And, luckily, sensitivity can be treated with at-home products or in-office treatment.  It’s important to speak to your dentist if you have regular sensitivity or dull, aching pain in your mouth. There are ways to treat the discomfort if either is the case!