Can My Cold-Sensitive Tooth Be Treated at Home or is it a Dental Emergency?

I was out ice skating this past weekend and I noticed that every time I took a breath, one of my lower teeth about midway back started aching. I thought it was a little strange, but it didn’t bother me much so I kept on going. However, I have noticed that every time I have something cold now, I feel that same twinge. Is this some kind of dental emergency or can I treat it with toothpaste for sensitive teeth and, if so, how long will it take to start working?



Dear Gretchen,

There are numerous possible causes for teeth that are sensitive to cold and, since not breathing is probably out of the question as a solution, it’s a good idea to have the source of your sensitivity diagnosed sooner rather than later. Because it isn’t an acute pain, or pain that came on suddenly, and it isn’t continual, it’s not yet a dental emergency, but it could become one.

If you regularly partake in acidic foods like coffee or soda or if you tend to be a rough brusher, you may find relief by switching toothpaste designed specifically for sensitive teeth and gently using a soft-bristled brush to clean, but you may not feel relief for a month or more even if it’s average sensitivity. Your dentist can also apply desensitizing agents and recommend additional products to help reduce this timeframe.

If you begin to notice sensitivity to heat as well, if it becomes continual, or if it starts to hurt, you’re edging into dental emergency territory. These are signifiers that the pulp of the tooth has become irritated or inflamed and requires treatment. Ignoring those symptoms could mean that you’ll wake up one morning with a nasty abscess, a swollen face, extreme pain or worse, which are certainly all signs that you’re experiencing a dental emergency and should seek treatment right away.

This blog is sponsored by Elgin dentist, Dr. Steve Sirin.

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