You may wonder, what is the most common type of tooth pain? The symptoms are a slight non-lingering sensitivity to cold, hot coffee, ice cream, or cold water. If you live somewhere cold, even breathing in cold air can trigger the pain. And for a while, your teeth ache, and it’s very hard to describe where it is. The pain may be on one side, but not necessarily on one tooth. And sometimes, rarely, the pain is spontaneous. But, it always has to be cold air or something that elicits a response. And it’s never really brought on when you are biting.
If we hear these symptoms from a patient, the first question to ask is: “What happens when you do something very sweet?” If the patient says, “Oh yeah, it hurts,” then that right away, typically, indicates that this is the kind of pain that we are going to talk about today—and it’s called root pain. Root pain is caused when the root of the tooth gets exposed.
A lot of us by age 30 or 35 have been grinding our teeth so much that the sides, the base of the tooth where it meets the gum line—the side, facial, cheek side of the tooth—has worn away. It’s chipped away from all those vertical forces from the opposing teeth.
And so the sides of the tooth start breaking off like a calving glacier. And that area becomes very sensitive because it is exposed dentin. Sometimes the gum will recede, and the root becomes exposed. And the root is always a little bit more thermally sensitive—and also, sugar sensitive.
So, if you eat something sweet, if you are hot and cold sensitive and it gives you a little shiver or a little pain, but it recovers quickly and it goes away, if you don’t have any spontaneous pain, you’re just sitting there doing nothing, your mouth is closed, you are not breathing in cold air and you don’t get spontaneous pain, then it’s likely exposed root pain. I call it dentin pain. It’s the exposed root sensitive to the external ambient temperatures and environmental factors.
Typically, it is something you don’t do too much about. You would use a very strong fluoride paste. You would stop over-brushing. We have talked about that in previous videos. You would replace your toothbrush often. Make sure you are using a soft one. You would stop using that back-and-forth sawing motion and again, the fluoride is very important.
But the most important thing is to find out if that, in fact, is what’s causing the pain—and of course, you have to see your dentist to do that—if that is what you are experiencing, the news probably will be good. Find out. It’s called root pain or dentin pain.