Tooth Sensitivity vs. Dental Emergency: How to Tell the Difference

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January 1, 2024

When you experience an unexpected dental issue, it can be challenging to determine whether it's a minor concern or a true dental emergency in Birmingham. One common dental problem that often causes confusion is tooth sensitivity. While sensitivity is a prevalent issue, understanding the distinction between it and a dental emergency is crucial.  

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Tooth Sensitivity vs. Dental Emergency

What is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is characterized by a temporary discomfort or mild pain when consuming hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and beverages. It can also occur when brushing or flossing, especially with force. Common causes of tooth sensitivity include:

  • Exposed Dentin: Dentin is the sensitive layer beneath your tooth enamel. When it becomes exposed due to enamel erosion, it can lead to sensitivity.
  • Gum Recession: Receding gums can expose the tooth's roots, which are sensitive to temperature changes and touch.
  • Cavities: Early-stage cavities can cause sensitivity when they reach the dentin.
  • Worn Dental Fillings: Over time, dental fillings may wear down, leading to sensitivity.

Signs of a Dental Emergency  

On the other hand, a dental emergency involves severe pain, trauma, or an issue that, if left unaddressed, could result in permanent damage or complications. Here are some signs of a dental emergency:

  • Severe Pain: Intense and unrelenting dental pain, especially when accompanied by swelling, is a strong indicator of a dental emergency. This could be due to an abscess, infection, or a severe injury.
  • Knocked-Out Tooth: If a tooth is completely knocked out, it's crucial to seek immediate dental attention. The chances of saving the tooth decrease significantly with time.
  • Broken or Fractured Tooth: A broken or fractured tooth, particularly if it causes sharp pain, is an emergency. It may expose the inner layers of the tooth, risking infection.
  • Persistent Bleeding: If you experience uncontrolled bleeding from the mouth that doesn't subside within a reasonable time, it's a dental emergency.
  • Swelling or Abscess: Swelling in the face, gums, or neck, accompanied by pain, can be a sign of a dental abscess, a serious infection requiring immediate treatment.  

Tooth Sensitivity: Not Always an Emergency

While tooth sensitivity can be uncomfortable, it typically does not qualify as a dental emergency.  

Sensitivity is often manageable with over-the-counter desensitizing toothpaste, maintaining good oral hygiene, and avoiding extreme temperature or acidic foods. However, if your sensitivity persists or worsens, it's essential to consult your dentist for a thorough evaluation.

When in Doubt, Seek Professional Advice  

If you are uncertain whether your dental issue is a dental emergency or tooth sensitivity, it's always safer to err on the side of caution.  

Reach out to your dentist or an emergency dental clinic for guidance. Promptly addressing dental emergencies is crucial for preventing complications and ensuring your continued oral health.

dental emergency birmingham situation at a dental office

Do You Want to Learn More About Dental Emergency in Birmingham?  

Distinguishing between tooth sensitivity and a dental emergency is essential for making informed decisions about your oral health. While tooth sensitivity can often be managed with home care, a dental emergency requires immediate attention to prevent more significant problems.  

Are you experiencing dental discomfort or have concerns about your oral health? Contact Church Family Dental for expert guidance and care. Your smile's well-being is our top priority. Contact Church Family Dental for expert guidance and care. Your smile's well-being is our top priority.



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