Just recently, my back left molar became extremely sensitive to exposure to cold liquids and food, and if I suck in cold air. I’m not sure if I need a root canal or not. I feel like I take relatively good care of my teeth, but the tooth that is sensitive does have a filling that was done probably about a year ago. Warm food and drinks do not bother the tooth. All of my other teeth are not sensitive at all. When this molar does become painful from exposure to cold stimuli, it is only for about a few seconds. Does this sound like something is wrong with my filling…or does it sound like an infection? I’m very nervous about getting a root canal…procedure looks very painful! Are there any ways to kinda test for an infection at home? I have a dentist appointment next week, but I want an answer now, haha. Also, is there anything I should ask my dentist when i go?
- Chris from Connecticut
There are a couple of possibilities that can cause a tooth to become suddenly sensitive to cold or air, if there has been no traumatic event.
One is that there could be decay that is approaching the pulp of your tooth, which would irritate the pulp. If you have an existing filling in a tooth, you can get recurrent decay around the filling which will then grow under the filling. Or, if you have a one-year-old filling, like you have, it could be a residual effect from the decay that was in your tooth at that time. Your inner tooth structure is filled with pores, and bacteria, if they get close to the pulp, can travel through these pores and get into the pulp. Yes, the tooth could be said to be infected. But if the pain is transitory and only occurs to cold stimuli or air, the situation is reversible. If there is decay and it is removed promptly and thoroughly and the tooth is sealed and restored with a non-irritating filling material like a composite, the tooth could fully recover without needing a root canal treatment.
Another possible cause could be an exposed root. Your gums can recede on your teeth, and this can cause the root surface of your tooth to be exposed to the air, which will make the tooth sensitive to air and cold. The treatment for this situation would be to have a desensitizer painted onto the root of the tooth to seal it from these stimuli.
There are other possible causes, such as microcracks in the tooth or traumatic occlusion.
So visit your dentist promptly and try to find out the cause, and get it taken care of promptly. It sounds like you’ve been doing that.
As far as being afraid of root canal treatment, it is generally a fairly easy appointment. There is little drilling involved. Sometimes the tissue inside the tooth is dead and you don’t even need any novocain, because it has no feeling. If you’re nervous about it, I would ask about having sedation dentistry, so you can sleep through the appointment, or nitrous oxide gas, which is a great relaxant.
This blog is sponsored by Boca Raton emergency dentist Dr. David Kagan.