Ouch! An aching tooth can be excruciating, but it may not mean you have a cavity. If hot or cold foods – iced or steaming tea, for two examples – cause sharp pain in a tooth, or if you experience pain when you floss, you may have what dentists call “sensitive teeth.”
You may think of teeth as being composed just of hard enamel. But underneath the thin enamel layer is dentin, a softer substance made up of microscopic tubules, like tiny tunnels. These tubules connect with your tooth nerves. If the dentin becomes exposed, hot, cold and acidic foods may reach a nerve and cause pain.
What causes dentin to become exposed? Tooth enamel can be worn down over time or gum disease – gingivitis or periodontitis – can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth and reveal the roots.
When you experience aching teeth, your first step is to see your dentist to determine if your pain is the result of decay. If it is, dental treatment may take care of it. If it isn’t, there are several steps you can take to reduce the pain. Many of them you can do on your own.