Very recently for the past few weeks one of my teeth has grown rather sensitive. Not to cold or hot, but if I scrape it with my fingernail near the gum line it almost feels like touching a nerve. The funny thing is, eating, drinking, brushing and flossing are all painless; its only sensitive to pressure with something hard, like a toothpick or fingernail. I was wondering what this might be.
I see the dentist about 2-3 times a year, and they always tell me my teeth are extraordinarily clean. I’m just very paranoid about my teeth. I hate getting dental work, and I don’t want to find out it requires a painful procedure to get it fixed. Help!
– Brandon from Ontario
It’s important to pay attention whenever a tooth is sensitive for an extended period of time. Even if the cause isn’t serious, the constant irritation of your tooth isn’t good and can lead to nerve damage inside the tooth, requiring root canal treatment. Since your sensitivity is intermittent, it’s not likely to damage the tooth. But still, it’s uncomfortable and I would try to address it.
I’m encouraged to know that your tooth isn’t sensitive to heat or cold or anything other than touching it in this one spot. Teeth can have sensitive spots like this, and usually those spots can be sealed over with something to alleviate the sensitivity. It’s kind of like a tiny filling.
Teeth tend to flex a little bit right where the crown meets the root. A lot of dentists aren’t familiar with this phenomenon, and it was only recently that it was discovered. But the tooth flexes at this spot, and causes tiny particles of tooth structure to break off, sometimes causing a sensitive spot, and sometimes continuing to progress until a significant groove develops. The trouble with treating them is that dentists have a hard time getting fillings to stick in this location – they tend to pop out. The way to get fillings to stick in this position is to use a flexible filling material, like a microfill composite.
So ask your dentist to seal over this sensitive spot, and if there is enough room for a filling, to place a small amount of microfill over the spot, and I believe the sensitivity will go away.
– Dr. Hall
Read more about teeth that are sensitive to touch.
Read about a toothpaste for sensitive teeth.
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About David A. Hall
Dr. David A. Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does advanced internet marketing for dentists.
I recently had a tooth surface near my gum line refilled because it had a dark stain behind it. The original filling was done because of receding gums, (wish I knew then about a periodontist) anyways, that filling never felt sensitive. The new surface filling had been sensitive only to my nail or something hard touching it, like nerve pain as described in the post above. Not sensitive to hot or cold, or biting down. I went back to my new dentist who did it and he has no idea. Could it be that the new filling is too thin? I see it is slightly concave.
Response by Dr. Hall,
I have seen this happen where one of these spots at the gumline gets sensitive only after the filling is done. My best guess as to what happened here is not that the filling is too thin–often these spots are simply coated with a bonding agent to relieve the sensitivity, and the bonding agent is extremely thin. No, what can happen is that in the process of either preparing the tooth or polishing the filling, the enamel or cementum of the tooth gets abraded or polished a little which opens up some tubules in the tooth, making it sensitive. Have your dentist coat the tooth root area where it is sensitive with a desensitizer, such as Gluma. Gluma is made specifically for these situations. If he doesn’t have anything like that, just a dentin bonding agent should help. Meanwhile, a toothpaste for sensitive teeth such as Sensodyne can help.
I do get an electric shock when my tongue presses the gum near the teeth (1 teeth away from the wisdom teeth). Chewing any food on that teeth makes me feel like their was a electric surge inside my mouth. I do have filling in the nearby teeth.
Please help me with it.
Response by Dr. Hall –
Winston, I don’t know that I have enough information to be able to tell you what is wrong here. Your mentioning “an electric shock” suggests a phenomenon known as oral galvanism, which can occur with two dissimilar metals in the mouth, but you’re not giving me enough information to determine whether or not that is occurring here.
Lisandra Santos says
Hi Doc. my name is Lisandra. I did a deep cleaning 2 years ago but my problem is that I have deep gaps pockets that it never heals no matter how much I go and have my teeth cleaned. . . .
(Read the rest of Lisandra’s comment and question, along with Dr. Hall’s advice, in this separate post about painful deep cleaning appointments.)
Michael Walker says
Dear Doctor Hall
I am intrigued but also worried by a persistent sore point between by last molar top right and the next molar. The gum, not the tooth, is incredibly sensitive and always hurts after eating with a throbbing pain. The pain goes away completely after about 30 minutes-I hour (better after tooth brushing) after eating and doesnt return until I eat something again. This has been going on for over a year with a very slight improvement (pain not as bad as 12 months ago) No problem with hot and cold. My dentist has examined it twice and x rayed and can find nothing. There was a root canal treatment on one of the teeth which may well have triggered something but seems to be nothing visibly wrong and the pain is not under or in the tooth but next to it. It is exactly the gum between the teeth which hurts, not the teeth themselves. The dentist advises removing the tooth if the pain doesnt heal. Seems a pity as I dont think it is the tooth itself causing the pain, but I might be wrong. Any idea what could be going on? All my other gums are fine. No sign of an absess no bad breath just very painful on the gum specifically in the space between the two teeth. Comments much appreciated.
Michael W Germany