Pain to temperature, biting or sweets

Any pain in a tooth means that the nerve is irritated or damaged. To help us diagnose the underlying problem, we need to know what makes the pain occur, or whether it's there all the time. We need to know how severe the pain is, how long the pain lasts, and how regularly it happens. We will examine the area and help you select the best treatment for your problem.


Pain to hot or cold usually means that the nerve of the tooth is not entirely healthy. This can be due to nerve damage from large old fillings or from new decay.

Prolonged pain is more serious than fleeting pain. Pain to heat is more serious than pain to cold. Spontaneous pain with no apparent cause, or pain that wakes you up at night mean that the nerve is very damaged and the tooth will likely need root canal treatment. If needed, we will refer you to one of the skilled endodontists that we work with regularly.


Pain to biting may be as simple as a small bite problem, which can be addressed by smoothing a "high spot" in one or a few teeth. A nightguard, or acrylic bite protector, can also be helpful for bite problems.

A cracked tooth can also be painful with biting. If the crack is not too severe, the tooth can be protected with a crown that encases the tooth and holds it together. If the crack extends into the nerve chamber, root canal treatment is also needed.

If a crack extends down the root of the tooth or splits the tooth in half, the unfortunate reality is that this is an unrestorable problem. A severely cracked tooth cannot be saved and must be extracted. The tooth can be replaced with a fixed bridge, a dental implant, or a removable partial denture if this is one of several missing teeth.


Sensitivity to sweets often indicates a cavity, a leaking filling, or a cavity under a crown. Treatment is a new filling or crown.

Exposed roots from receded gums can be sensitive to sweets or temperature. This is root sensitivity, it is NOT a cavity. Treatment is an easy desensitizing medication or a bonded filling.


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