Causes Of Pain When Consuming Hot Or Cold

Posted on Nov 17, 2014 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Do you get painful jolts when you drink hot or cold beverages or eat ice-cream? This commonly stems from sensitivity caused by gum recession.

When the gums pull away from teeth, they leave portions of tooth roots exposed. Unlike the enamel-coated tooth that extends above the gums, the root portion below relies on gum tissue to protect the dentin.

Dentin is a porous layer around the neck of the tooth. It consists of tiny tubules that surround the root’s nerve center. If the dentin is exposed, the nerve center responds with pain signals. This typically happens when the bristles of a tooth brush or hot or cold foods and beverages reach exposed areas.

As a periodontal specialist, what I most often see are gums that have pulled away from teeth due to periodontal (gum) disease. Gum disease is a common cause of gum recession as well as the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

Smoking, certain illnesses or poor oral hygiene can be factors in gum disease. When bacteria in the mouth are not removed on a daily basis, plaque forms around the teeth. Plaque is toxic and causes irritation to the gums, which can develop into gingivitis. As the gums become more inflamed, gingivitis progresses to periodontitis (gum disease).

As the bacteria of gum disease destroy healthy gum tissues, the gums lose their attachment to the teeth. This becomes apparent when teeth appear to be long and reveal darker portions near the gum line. Even worse than having the appearance of your smile compromised, gum recession allows for easy entry of bacteria to penetrate bones and tissues that support teeth. This leads to a more severe level of gum disease.

Another cause of gum recession can be from rigorous tooth brushing or using an overly-abrasive substance such as baking soda. When tender gum tissues are literally scoured away day after day, you’ll eventually erode tooth enamel and the gum tissue protecting sensitive areas.

Gum recession can also occur from trauma that results from teeth clenching or bruxing (tooth grinding). This most often happens during sleep, leaving many people unaware that this is occurring. This action can break down gum tissues and eventually lead to recession. In addition to receded gums, clenching or grinding can cause teeth to become worn or chip.

If gum recession is minor, we recommend switching to a soft bristle tooth brush and lighten up on your stroke. Rather than a back-&-forth ‘scrubbing’ motion, swipe from the base of each tooth to its end. Then, clean the tops of teeth with a circular motion. Use a sensitivity toothpaste that contains potassium nitrate to block the nerve endings.

In more severe cases of gum recession, surgery may be recommended. Gum tissue regeneration and gum grafting can protect tooth roots and restore the appearance of your smile. Gum grafting is a common periodontal procedure and performed with a high level of comfort and an excellent outcome.

The best way to remedy gum recession is sooner than later. Begin with a periodontal examination so you can hopefully avoid extensive treatment or expense. Call (828) 274-9440 for an appointment.

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