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Sounds crazy, right? How do you listen to your teeth?
Well, believe it or not, even your teeth have systems in place that will let you know when something is wrong and needs to be addressed. Knowing how to detect the warning signs right from the start will not only save you money in costly dental bills, but it may also save you a couple of teeth in the process.
When it comes to dental health, not all toothaches are the result of cavities. In fact, sometimes the problem may not even be your teeth at all!
Sensitivity to Hot and Cold
If you experience pain while eating a particularly hot or cold food or drink, you may have a cavity. However, this problem can also be caused by receding gums, or worn-down enamel. Cavities are a quick fix in most dental offices, but if the pain is caused by receding gums or worn-down enamel, the procedure will likely be more costly. As you prepare for your next dental exam, keep in mind that while some of this breakdown can be attributed to genetic factors, you can also slow its progression by changing your behavior:
- Teeth Grinding: Many people who grind their teeth are often unaware they do so because it usually takes place when they’re asleep. A dentist can determine whether you’ve been grinding your teeth. Wearing a mouth guard to bed is one effective way to protect your teeth and gums from further harm.
- Aggressive Brushing: In an effort to achieve pristine oral health, some of us become overzealous brushers and can actually do more damage than good. If your teeth hurt while you’re brushing them, you’re doing it too hard.
- Tobacco Use: Tobacco is the mouth’s worst nightmare. Bad breath and risk of cancer aside, the chemicals in many tobacco products are very abrasive to body tissue, and can gradually eat away at your gums and enamel.
Sharp, Stabbing Pain
Whether the food is hot, cold, or somewhere in between, experiencing a sharp, stabbing pain in your teeth could be the result of a crack. Cracked teeth are caused by excessive grinding, or persistent chewing on hard objects, like unpopped popcorn kernels, hard candy, or pen caps. The problem with cracked teeth is that they are not always so easily detectable without an X-ray. This is because many cracks take place below the gum line at the root level. Some are treatable, but others may require surgery:
- Fractured Cusp: This occurs when a part of the tooth’s chewing surfaces breaks apart above the gum line. Thankfully, this causes little pain, and can be easily treated with a crown.
- Cracked Tooth: Depending on whether or not the crack descends beneath the gum line, a cracked tooth can often be saved with a crown. However, if the crack is indeed deeper than the gums, the entire tooth will need to be extracted.
- Split Tooth: An extreme example of the case mentioned above, a split tooth involves an entire separation down the length of the tooth. Depending upon the location, depth, and severity of the split, part or the entire tooth must be extracted.
- Vertical Root Fracture: In some cases, the crack originates from the root and travels upward, and therefore goes largely undetected until it breaks the surface, and gum infection sets in. In these situations, it’s best to remove the tooth altogether.
Constant, Dull Pain
In rare cases, your teeth may not be the source of your toothache. For example, if you sense pain in large groups of upper and/or lower teeth, you may have a bigger issue at hand.
- Sinus Infection: You have sinus cavities throughout your skull, including in your jawbone. A sinus infection in your maxillary (jaw) sinuses could result in tooth pain in your upper jaw area.
- Jaw Trauma: Additionally, if you’ve experienced any kind of trauma to your jaw (tooth grinding, sports injuries, arthritis, cancer, etc), you might feel the pain in your teeth.
- Impacted Molars: If you have yet to get your wisdom teeth extracted, tooth pain can also be caused by the increased pressure produced by impacted molars.
As always, you should practice good oral hygiene and schedule regular dental appointments. And, as any dentist can tell you, avoid sugary or overly acidic foods. Remember also that you don’t have to floss all your teeth – just the ones you want to keep!!
Joseph Carney is a sports fanatic, and loves writing about anything competitive. He enjoys writing on home improvement, business, and health-related topics. Joseph also writes for East Gate Dental Centre.