If you have teeth sensitive to heat and feel you can't enjoy your favourite hot food or drinks anymore, don't panic. Many people experience sensitive teeth, but there are steps you can take to help prevent it and even treat them. So, what causes your teeth to be sensitive to heat, and what can you do about it?
This article will answer the following questions so that you can go back to savour that first sip of coffee (or tea) without worrying about pain:
- What are sensitive teeth?
- What causes my teeth to be sensitive to heat?
- What can I do to prevent sensitivity to heat?
- Are there treatments for tooth sensitivity to heat?
If you want to know what causes teeth sensitivity to heat, and a few ways to prevent it and even help treat it, keep reading to learn more.
Let's dive right in and start with sensitive teeth and their causes.
Table of contents
What are sensitive teeth?
If you get a small twinge or sharp pain in one or more of your teeth when you drink a hot beverage, then you may have a tooth sensitive to hot food and drinks. Teeth sensitivity is generally triggered by something that irritates the sensitive dentin layer beneath your enamel. Triggers can include:
- Cold and hot food or drinks
- Breathing in cold air
- Acidic or sugary food or drinks
- Teeth whitening treatments
- Some kinds of toothpaste and mouthwash (strong minty flavours)
Having sensitive teeth can mean anything from having pain or discomfort in just one tooth or many, it can be a sharp short pain, or a dull ache that lasts for weeks.
If your pain or discomfort is severe or lasts weeks on end, then it is advisable to see your dentist so they can make sure you don’t have any underlying issues that need addressing.
What causes my teeth to be sensitive to heat?
Now that you know what triggers sensitive teeth, let’s discuss why they can get close enough to the sensitive nerves beneath your enamel to cause you pain and discomfort. Not everyone has sensitive teeth, so what causes teeth to be sensitive to heat?
Generally, sensitive teeth are caused by thinning or damaged enamel, exposed tooth roots or dental work. This is because your enamel (the top layer of your teeth) protects the sensitive dentin layer below.
When your enamel is compromised somehow, it allows potential triggers of sensitivity to reach the dentin layer. Tooth decay is one of the main culprits because it weakens the enamel and causes cavities to form.
Cavities are essentially a hole in the top layer of your tooth that lead straight to the dentin layer below. Now if you imagine drinking a hot cup of coffee, that heat is going to feel a lot hotter where that cavity is allowing access to the sensitive area.
There are other causes of tooth sensitivity, but they all result in a sensitive part of your teeth being more exposed than a tooth with strong enamel and healthy gums. Some of these causes include:
- Pregnancy hormones
- Gum recession
- Dental fillings
- Teeth whitening treatments
- Dental work like veneers
- Teeth grinding
- Brushing too hard
- Consuming acidic foods (enamel erosion)
Sometimes you may have a sensitive tooth or teeth directly after dental work, which may just be temporary while you recover. If it does not get better, it’s best to consult your dentist for advice.
What can I do to prevent sensitivity to heat?
If you have a tooth sensitive to hot and cold but still want to enjoy your first sip of coffee in the morning or an ice cream on a sunny day, there are a few things you can do.
The most important and simplest step you can take is to ensure that you have a good oral hygiene routine. This includes brushing and flossing your teeth the recommended twice per day.
Other steps you can take to prevent teeth sensitivity include rinsing your mouth out after eating or drinking anything acidic or sugary.
Make sure you have a sensitive toothbrush with soft bristles and that you are not brushing with too much pressure. An electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor can help you know how long to brush and how much pressure to use .
You can also use products designed to help with sensitivity and those that help remineralise and strengthen your enamel.
Are there treatments for tooth sensitivity to heat?
If you have a good oral hygiene routine and have tried all the methods available over-the-counter to help teeth sensitive to heat and still feel that you need more help, you can consult your dentist. Maybe you have an underlying issue that needs treating professionally, such as getting a filling or tooth restoration, such as a crown.
There are also professional dental treatments and products to help with sensitive teeth. These include:
- Root canal treatment
- Gum grafts
- Fluoride varnish
- A crown, inlay or bonding
- Prescription fluoride toothpaste
If you have a tooth sensitive to cold and hot drinks and want to enjoy them without pain or discomfort, don't worry! There are steps you can take to lessen the impact that sensitive teeth have on your life.
If you have tried and tested multiple products designed to help with teeth that are sensitive to heat with no luck, then it may be time to consult your dentist to see if there are further steps to take.
Why is my crowned tooth sensitive to heat?
If you have a crowned tooth sensitive to heat, it may be because your gums have receded over time and the tooth root is exposed. Trapped tooth decay below the crown can be another reason. Speak to your dentist if you have concerns about your crowned teeth.
Oral Health Foundation. Sensitive teeth. Consulted 11th April 2022.