Sensitive Tooth? Check Your Bite

by | Feb 7, 2010 | Dental Health, Pain

I found out a long time ago, that if you want to make a new friend and/or patient for life, get them out of dental pain and as quickly as possible. As a dentist, there’s nothing more gratifying than helping a patient completely relieve their chronic toothache pain within a matter of a few minutes.

How is this possible? Well, we’re not talking about abscessed or infected teeth, nor tooth pain associated with periodontal disease. Those are usually more obvious to detect. We’re talking about subtle aches and pains that are related to your dental occlusion, i.e., how your teeth touch together when you close down.

During most dental procedures, when anesthesia is used, it becomes a bit more challenging not only for the dentist but also for the patient to accurately detect the exact positioning of your teeth as they come together. Although it’s not unusual or uncommon for teeth to be sensitive days after your dental work is performed, normally these discomforts should calm down within 7 -10 days.

Only after years of clinical experience, and with some persistence, have I learned a valuable lesson in my practice: dentistry is not perfect and sometimes we (dentists) need to re-check our work once, twice, or maybe three times before it’s right and our patients are finally comfortable.

If you’ve recently had a new filling, crown or fixed bridge placed or repaired, with no previous history of pain before hand and suddenly 1 – 2 weeks later notice that your tooth is still sensitive to temperature changes, especially cold, you might want to have your bite checked again.

If you can’t chew any hard foods on this particular tooth and it’s not waking you up at night, check the bite.

Anatomically speaking, the periodontal ligaments (elastic fibers that hold the teeth in place within the bone socket) are compressed over and over again as your upper and lower teeth come together due to the new restoration being too “high.” This constant and repetitive pressure causes the tooth to be traumatized and creates a very uncomfortable situation.

What’s interesting about these mal-occlusions is that most of the time patients can’t even detect that there is something wrong. I wish I had a dollar for every time a patient has told me “My bite feels fine doc, it just hurts.” Once the bite is correct, the patient will immediately notice a reduction in pain and the sensitivity, whether it’s been bothering them for a week or even a year, can disappear completely within 24 hours.

Adjusting 2-3 tenths of a millimeter can be the difference between enjoying your next meal with a glass of ice tea or taking pain relievers until the problem is finally solved.

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