Enjoying a warm beverage on a cold night can be enormously comforting, but not if it causes dental pain. If you find having a hot drink is less than pleasant, making your teeth twinge uncomfortably, you may have tooth sensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity tends to develop gradually and can also happen when you have something very cold, and even breathing in cold air may cause discomfort. There are several reasons why hot and cold foods and beverages can cause discomfort, including the following.
Over time, your tooth enamel can gradually wear away, exposing the dentine underneath. Dentine is slightly porous, so hot and cold sensations can easily reach the tooth nerve in the dental pulp, right in the centre of your tooth.
Gum recession exposes the tooth roots that aren’t covered in protective enamel but instead have a coating of cementum. The cementum is easily brushed or worn away, exposing the dentine and leading to tooth sensitivity and an increased risk of tooth-root decay.
An untreated cavity in a tooth or a failing filling can allow the sensations of a hot drink to penetrate the tooth more easily, reaching the nerve.
If untreated tooth decay reaches the tooth nerve in the dental pulp, it can result in a significant infection. As a result, the gum around the tooth can become red and swollen, and the tooth will most likely feel painful at other times, not just when you have something hot or cold.
Teeth Grinding and Clenching
This condition is called bruxism and is often a nocturnal habit that can grind away your tooth enamel, causing increased tooth sensitivity and probably other symptoms. These may include waking up with an aching jaw or toothache, facial pain that can extend into your neck and shoulders or cause headaches, and your teeth may look shorter and more worn than before. Bruxism can also cause gum recession.
Eating a lot of sugary or starchy foods allows harmful bacteria in your mouth to thrive. These bacteria create acid as a byproduct, causing tooth enamel erosion and eventually cavities and other problems.
If you have noticed increased sensitivity whenever you have a hot drink, make an appointment to come and see us. Our dentist can examine your teeth, detect any signs of enamel erosion, cavities, gum recession, or other dental problems, and provide appropriate treatment. Sometimes small lesions in teeth are easy to mend, or we may suggest professional fluoride treatments to re-harden tooth enamel. Any cavities or failing fillings can be restored with the latest tooth-coloured fillings that are virtually invisible and very hard-wearing. If you have bruxism, a custom-made night splint will often solve this problem, preventing your teeth from contacting while you sleep more peacefully.
At the same time, our dental team can advise you on proper oral care at home, ensuring you are brushing and flossing effectively using the best possible tools and techniques. We can also offer useful dietary advice if needed. Sometimes simply changing the time you eat sweet treats can help protect your oral health, for example, including them as part of your main meal rather than as a snack.