Tooth Sensitivity and Toothache: Insights by Dr. Susan Pan

Tooth sensitivity and toothache are common dental issues that can significantly impact one’s quality of life. Dr. Susan Pan of Excel Dental, located at 49 East Avenue South, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8N 2T5, provides valuable insights into understanding, diagnosing, and treating these conditions. This article aims to offer a comprehensive guide on tooth sensitivity and toothache, helping you recognize symptoms, identify triggers, and seek appropriate treatment.

Understanding Tooth Sensitivity: Causes and Symptoms

Tooth sensitivity, also known as dentin hypersensitivity, occurs when the inner layer of the tooth, called dentin, becomes exposed. This exposure can result from various factors, including enamel erosion, gum recession, or dental procedures. When the dentin is exposed, it allows external stimuli to reach the nerves inside the tooth, causing discomfort or pain.

Common symptoms of tooth sensitivity include sharp, sudden pain when consuming hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and beverages. Some individuals may also experience discomfort when brushing or flossing their teeth. The pain can be intermittent or persistent, depending on the severity of the condition.

Enamel erosion is a primary cause of tooth sensitivity and can result from acidic foods, beverages, or aggressive brushing. Gum recession, often caused by periodontal disease or improper brushing techniques, can also expose the tooth roots, leading to sensitivity. Additionally, dental procedures such as teeth whitening or fillings can temporarily increase tooth sensitivity.

Understanding the underlying causes and symptoms of tooth sensitivity is crucial for effective management and treatment. By identifying the root cause, dental professionals can recommend appropriate interventions to alleviate discomfort and prevent further damage.

Common Triggers for Tooth Sensitivity and Pain

Several common triggers can exacerbate tooth sensitivity and pain. One of the most prevalent triggers is the consumption of hot or cold foods and beverages. The sudden temperature change can cause discomfort in sensitive teeth, leading to sharp pain.

Acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits, soda, and wine, can also trigger tooth sensitivity. The acids in these items can erode the enamel, exposing the dentin and increasing sensitivity. Additionally, sugary foods and beverages can contribute to tooth decay, further exacerbating sensitivity and pain.

Brushing and flossing can also be triggers for tooth sensitivity, especially if done aggressively or with a hard-bristled toothbrush. Over time, this can wear down the enamel and cause gum recession, exposing the sensitive areas of the teeth. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle brushing techniques can help mitigate this risk.

Lastly, dental procedures such as teeth whitening, fillings, or crowns can temporarily increase tooth sensitivity. While this sensitivity usually subsides within a few days, it is essential to follow post-procedure care instructions provided by your dentist to minimize discomfort.

Diagnostic Approaches for Tooth Sensitivity Issues

Diagnosing tooth sensitivity involves a thorough examination by a dental professional. Dr. Susan Pan emphasizes the importance of a comprehensive dental history and clinical examination to identify the underlying cause of sensitivity. This process typically includes a visual inspection, probing of the gums, and assessment of the patient’s oral hygiene practices.

In some cases, dental X-rays may be necessary to identify issues not visible during the clinical examination. X-rays can help detect cavities, bone loss, or other structural problems that may contribute to tooth sensitivity. Additionally, they can reveal the extent of enamel erosion or gum recession.

A diagnostic tool known as a "sensitivity test" may also be used. This involves applying a stimulus, such as cold air or water, to the affected tooth to determine the severity and location of the sensitivity. This test helps pinpoint the exact cause and guides the treatment plan.

Once the diagnosis is complete, Dr. Pan can develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to the patient’s specific needs. This plan may include recommendations for at-home care, professional treatments, or a combination of both to effectively manage and alleviate tooth sensitivity.

Effective Treatments for Managing Tooth Sensitivity

Managing tooth sensitivity often involves a combination of at-home care and professional treatments. One of the most common at-home treatments is the use of desensitizing toothpaste. These toothpastes contain compounds that help block the transmission of pain signals from the tooth surface to the nerve, providing relief from sensitivity.

Fluoride treatments, available both over-the-counter and through your dentist, can help strengthen the enamel and reduce sensitivity. Fluoride varnishes or gels can be applied to the teeth to create a protective barrier, minimizing the exposure of dentin and reducing discomfort.

For more severe cases of tooth sensitivity, dental professionals may recommend procedures such as bonding, crowns, or inlays. These treatments can help cover exposed dentin and protect the tooth from further damage. In cases of gum recession, a gum graft may be necessary to cover the exposed roots and reduce sensitivity.

In addition to these treatments, maintaining good oral hygiene practices is essential for managing tooth sensitivity. This includes brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush, flossing daily, and using a fluoride mouthwash. Regular dental check-ups are also crucial for monitoring and addressing any issues that may arise.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Tooth Sensitivity

Preventing tooth sensitivity involves adopting healthy oral hygiene habits and making lifestyle changes to protect your teeth. One of the most effective preventive measures is using a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle brushing techniques. This helps prevent enamel erosion and gum recession, which are common causes of tooth sensitivity.

Limiting the consumption of acidic and sugary foods and beverages can also help prevent enamel erosion and tooth decay. When consuming these items, it is advisable to rinse your mouth with water afterward to neutralize the acids and reduce their impact on your teeth.

Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are essential for maintaining oral health and preventing tooth sensitivity. During these visits, your dentist can identify and address any early signs of enamel erosion, gum recession, or other issues that may lead to sensitivity. Professional cleanings also help remove plaque and tartar buildup, which can contribute to gum disease and sensitivity.

Using fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash can help strengthen the enamel and protect your teeth from sensitivity. Additionally, wearing a mouthguard at night can prevent teeth grinding, which can wear down the enamel and increase sensitivity.

When to Seek Professional Help for Toothache

While mild tooth sensitivity can often be managed with at-home care, it is essential to seek professional help if you experience persistent or severe toothache. Toothache can be a sign of underlying dental issues that require prompt attention, such as cavities, infections, or gum disease.

If you experience sharp, throbbing, or constant pain in your tooth, it is crucial to schedule an appointment with your dentist. Other signs that warrant professional attention include swelling, fever, or a bad taste in your mouth, which may indicate an infection.

Delaying treatment for toothache can lead to more severe complications, including abscesses or tooth loss. Early intervention can help address the underlying cause of the pain and prevent further damage to your teeth and gums.

Dr. Susan Pan and the team at Excel Dental are dedicated to providing comprehensive care for tooth sensitivity and toothache. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to seek professional help to ensure your oral health and well-being.


Q: What causes tooth sensitivity?
A: Tooth sensitivity can be caused by enamel erosion, gum recession, dental procedures, or aggressive brushing.

Q: How can I prevent tooth sensitivity?
A: Preventive measures include using a soft-bristled toothbrush, avoiding acidic and sugary foods, and maintaining good oral hygiene.

Q: When should I see a dentist for toothache?
A: You should see a dentist if you experience persistent or severe toothache, swelling, fever, or a bad taste in your mouth.

Q: What treatments are available for tooth sensitivity?
A: Treatments include desensitizing toothpaste, fluoride treatments, bonding, crowns, inlays, and gum grafts.

More Information

Tooth sensitivity and toothache can significantly impact your daily life, but effective treatments and preventive measures are available. If you have any questions or need to make an appointment, please call Dr. Susan Pan at Excel Dental at 905-529-2164. Your oral health is our priority, and we are here to help you achieve a pain-free smile.

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