In a recent article from Time magazine (5/21/15), American Dental Association spokesperson, Dr. Matt Messina, was cited extensively. Here is a brief synopsis of some common symptoms and potential causes of tooth sensitivity, as well as a few additional comments and observations I have made:
In general, cold sensitivity that lasts only briefly may not indicate a problem, however sensitivity that lingers or can be localized to a particular tooth or area of the mouth can be caused by a cracked tooth, a filling that is deteriorating or a cavity. Sensitivity in the latter case, that is more than an annoyance, should be checked by a dentist. Early diagnosis and treatment can many times help avoid more involved treatment down the road.
If the sensitivity is of a different nature, such as sensitivity to hot temperatures and biting pressure, this could indicate an infection in the tooth. Another scenario involves receding gums, where the root surfaces of the teeth become exposed to varying degrees. Gum recession can be caused by brushing too hard or as a result of gum disease (inadequate home care). Gum recession can result in temperature sensitivity (particularly to cold), because the root surface of a tooth has no protective layer of enamel. Having no enamel layer (insulating layer), leaves the more porous root surface of a tooth exposed to air, cold and temperature extremes.
Bottom line is, please check with your dentist particularly if sensitivity issues are more than a minor annoyance. Catching things early on is always a good plan.
Have a great summer,
Dr. Richard K Dimsdale