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What can happen if I don't treat my sensitive teeth?

Sensitivity of teeth can be caused by many factors. Your dentist must determine the cause of sensitivity in order for it to be treated properly. If you don't treat the sensitivity early on it can lead to greater problems that may need more invasive treatment. 

Cost, time, and many other things can get in the way of going to the dentist, but sensitive teeth are a sign that you should make an appointment to see your dentist soon. While sensitive teeth may be due to a minor problem, such as a tiny crack in a tooth, they may also signal more serious dental conditions, such as periodontitis, an advanced form of gum disease. Periodontitis can increase the risk of serious overall health problems, such as heart attack, stroke, and, for pregnant women, giving birth to a premature baby. Also, if periodontitis isn't treated, you may lose your teeth. Because of this, it's important to talk to your dentist about your sensitive teeth, no matter how minor the problem may seem.
This depends on the cause of the sensitivity. General sensitivity involving several teeth at the same time can be caused by gum recession which exposes the roots of the teeth. The gum recession may be a sign of improper tooth brushing technique or of gum disease. Either of these causes can be harmful to the teeth if not treated or corrected. Sensitivity can also be a sign of cavities (decay). Failure to treat a cavity can lead to an infection in the gums or jaw with pain, swelling, and risk of spreading to other areas of the head and neck in severe cases. It’s best to find out the cause of the sensitivity as early as possible by visiting a dentist. As with many other health problems, early treatment is less costly and less invasive.
Sensitive teeth can be treated. The type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity. Not treating this will only continue the pain you experience, and may have a lasting impact.

In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel protects the crowns of your teeth -- the part above the gum line. Under the gum line a layer called cementum protects the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin. Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum these tubules allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. Dentin may also be exposed when gums recede. The result can be hypersensitivity, and increased chances for cavities at the exposed areas.

Continue Learning about Tooth Sensitivity

Is having sensitive teeth a serious problem?
Jerry P. Gordon, DMDJerry P. Gordon, DMD
That depends on how sensitive your teeth are and what is causing the sensitivity. If your teeth are...
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How can I prevent sensitive teeth?
Jerry P. Gordon, DMDJerry P. Gordon, DMD
Good home care, which includes frequent brushing and flossing of your teeth, and seeing your dentist...
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At what point should I see my dentist if I have sensitive teeth?
American Dental AssociationAmerican Dental Association
If you have sensitive teeth, the first step is to talk to your dentist. Your dentist will first try ...
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How can I decrease tooth sensitivity?
Jonathan B. Levine, DMDJonathan B. Levine, DMD
If you're beginning to experience sensitivity, you can try an over-the-counter desensitizing toothpa...
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.