This is a question we are asked all the time, and we believe there is never a good time to avoid the drinks you love. In the summer, there is nothing better than an ice cold beverage during an Orioles or Nationals game or after a sail on the Chesapeake Bay. In the winter, a hot drink can warm the soul.
Accordingly, let us shed some light on what might be causing this tooth sensitivity. To start, know you are not alone. Unfortunately, there are more than a million people across Maryland every year who avoid hot and cold drinks because of tooth sensitivity. While most of these cases are resolved with education and proven homecare protocols, an estimated 280,000 each year require a root canal to solve the problem.
If you are one of the millions with tooth sensitivity, your next step depends on the severity and frequency of the pain.
Less than 15 Seconds of Sensitivity
If pain or discomfort lasts only for a few seconds after drinking a hot or cold beverage, the problem is unlikely to be serious. In these cases, the sensitivity is likely the result of minor decay, a loose or lost filling or minor gum recession. It makes sense to schedule a visit to your dentist as soon as possible, but it does not require emergency dental care. You may need a cavity repaired, and it is likely you will be asked to improve your at-home care. Brushing in a vertical pattern with a soft bristle toothbrush is a start. Electronic toothbrushes can also be very beneficial. Fluoride toothpastes that help reduce sensitivity are another option, and flossing regularly will make a positive difference.
Sensitivity that Lasts 30 Seconds or More
In these cases, you have likely suffered permanent damage to the internal structure (pulp) of your tooth. This could have been caused by deep decay, a tooth fracture, an accident or trauma, or it could be the result of a serious infection. In either case, it is best to get a dental appointment scheduled immediately for thorough evaluation – before the pain becomes constant and unbearable. Even if the pain eventually subsides, a deep filling or root canal may be needed to remove the tooth decay or infection and to help avoid further damage.
What is a Root Canal?
In popular culture, root canals have gotten a bum rap. In reality, they are relatively quick, economical and painless procedures. Plain and simple, a root canal is a procedure through which a dentist removes the damaged nerve in your tooth, disinfects the surrounding tooth structure and reseals the area with an artificial filler material. Surveys by the American Association of Endodontists show more than 90% of people reporting positive results from root canals, and the reasons are obvious. You arrive at the dental office in pain. Less than an hour later (in most cases), you are walking out the door with a smile on your face.
Grab the Hot & Cold Drinks
At the end of the day, we hope this helps you find a practical answer to your question. If minor sensitivity is keeping you away from enjoying hot and cold beverages, your body is telling you something. Listen. It is giving you an early warning signal that your teeth need some attention. It is telling you to give your dentist a call and to take care of the problem before it becomes severe.