If air makes your tooth hurt, there are three main explanations possible:
- A sensitive root. As we get older, more of the root of a tooth can become exposed, and this exposed root can be susceptible to dehydration or touch. This tooth may need either a filling or a protective coating to prevent undue irritation of the tooth.
- Sensitivity to air can also be aggravated by any other irritation to the tooth-a deep filling, tooth decay, an acid reflux problem, or recent dental treatment.
- If part of a tooth has broken off, or part of a filling is missing, the tooth can also be sensitive to air. The exposed dentin has tubules that lead directly to the pulp of the tooth, and air will dry them out and irritate the tooth. This should be fixed promptly because these exposed tubules can also allow bacteria to enter the pulp and infect it.
The most common cause of pain in your tooth from air is an exposed root, as mentioned above. Sometimes this root surface can become dished out so that it appears worn away. For many years it was thought this was caused by aggressive brushing. However, recent research has demonstrated that this dishing out is caused from a stressful bite. Clenching of the teeth causes the teeth to flex at the neck which weakens the surface of the tooth and makes it susceptible to wearing away.
If this is the case and the pain is very annoying, I would recommend trying a toothpaste for sensitive teeth, such as Sensodyne® Toothpaste. If that doesn’t work, then I would recommend having your dentist place a coating, a filling, or otherwise treating the tooth. Untreated sensitivity can irritate the tooth so severely that the pulp is permanently damaged.
In some states, the hygienist can place the coating. If a filling is placed, the dentist needs to understand the mechanics of what is happening to this part of the tooth. Since the dishing out of the tooth is caused by flexing the teeth, if the dentist places a filling with a hard composite, when the tooth flexes it tends to cause that filling to pop out. However, if the dentist uses a soft, flexible composite, it will flex with the tooth and stay in place.
—Dr. David Hall
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