New Patients Call: 940-531-9753    ||    Current Patients Call: 940-464-3500

Tooth Sensitivity: Anatomy Behind Pain

Tooth sensitivity is a common problem that many people experience. It’s that sharp, sudden pain you feel when you eat or drink something hot, cold, sweet, or acidic. But what causes this discomfort? To understand tooth sensitivity better, we need to know more about the anatomy behind the pain.

Tooth Sensitivity: Anatomy Behind Pain

The Anatomy of a Tooth

A tooth may seem like a simple structure, but it’s actually quite complex. Each tooth has multiple layers, including enamel, dentin, pulp, and cementum. Understanding these layers is crucial to understanding tooth sensitivity.

Enamel is the hard outer layer of the tooth. It’s the strongest substance in the human body and serves as a protective shield for the underlying layers. Enamel protects the sensitive inner structures of the tooth from external stimuli like hot, cold, sweet, and acidic foods.

Beneath the enamel lies the dentin, a softer, porous layer that contains tiny tubes called dentinal tubules. These tubules connect to nerve endings in the pulp of the tooth. When the enamel is intact, these nerve endings are protected, and you don’t feel any pain. However, when the enamel wears away, or the dentin is exposed, the nerves become more susceptible to external stimuli, leading to tooth sensitivity.

At the core of the tooth is the pulp, which houses blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The pulp is vital for the tooth’s development and nourishment. Then, stimuli can reach the nerves in the pulp, causing pain and discomfort.

The cementum covers the roots of the tooth, anchoring it to the jawbone. Like enamel, cementum helps protect the underlying structures of the tooth. However, if the gums recede due to factors like gum disease or aggressive brushing, the cementum may become exposed, leading to sensitivity in the roots.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Enamel erosion occurs when acids from foods and drinks, as well as plaque bacteria, wear away the enamel. This can happen due to frequent consumption of acidic foods and beverages, acid reflux, or brushing too hard. Once the enamel is compromised, the dentin becomes exposed, leading to sensitivity.

Gum recession happens when the gum tissue pulls away from the tooth, exposing the roots. This can occur due to gum disease, aging, or aggressive brushing. Since the roots do not have enamel to protect them, they are more sensitive to external stimuli.

Tooth decay, also known as cavities, occurs when bacteria in the mouth produce acids that erode the enamel and dentin. This exposes the nerves in the pulp, leading to sensitivity and pain.

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, can wear down the enamel over time, leading to sensitivity. Additionally, grinding can cause micro-fractures in the teeth, further exacerbating the problem.

Some dental procedures, such as teeth whitening, tooth restoration, and root canal treatment, can cause temporary sensitivity. This usually resolves on its own after a few days or weeks.