Have you ever heard anyone say, “That’s so sweet it makes my teeth hurt!”? Hearing that, you might just laugh and think that’s a preposterous exaggeration. Unfortunately, you might hear someone say that and be all too familiar with the sensation of discomfort that can follow eating sweets. For some people, eating sugary foods can cause serious discomfort and sensitivity. If you are one of those people who suffer from sweet food tooth sensitivity, you probably want to know why it makes your teeth hurt to eat or drink sugary sweet foods or drink sugary beverages. Further, you probably really want to know what you can about that pain. With tooth sensitivity after eating sugar, there are 3 main reasons that are likely to be causing your tooth pain and several ways you can reduce that pain.
Probable Culprit #1: Dental Caries
You’ve probably heard that eating sugary foods can cause cavities. Unfortunately, there is some truth to that. The bacteria that cause caries (cavities) feed on starches and sugars and overgrow. They also produce acids as a byproduct of digesting that sugar. The acid can then dissolve minerals out of the enamel surface of your tooth, giving an entry spot for bacteria to enter into your teeth, causing pain and damage as they infect your inner tooth. Moreover, drinking sugary beverages can be terrible for your teeth and cause the same problems that eating sugary foods would, but people are less likely to think of what they are drinking as part of their diet. Fruit juice can contribute to caries development, but sometimes people forget to consider how it impacts oral health.
What Can I Do About This?
Dental caries is a serious infection. If you suspect you have caries developing, they need to be evaluated by your dental care team. If you have developed problems with dental caries, your dental care team may recommend a filling to treat the immediate symptoms. It’s important, though, to treat the underlying circumstances that led to caries development. Discuss with your care team any lifestyle factors that you can control to prevent further caries development. Remineralizing toothpaste may be part of your plan. Eating and drinking sweets only at mealtimes to lessen enamel exposure to sugar acids may also help you avoid future caries.
Probable Culprit #2: A Cracked Tooth
Dental caries can let painful stimuli into your tooth through the enamel. A cracked tooth can do the same thing. A crack in the enamel can let acids into your tooth where it can irritate the soft tissue and nerves. A crack in your tooth, of course, was not caused by sugar; it’s just irritating when sugary acids get into the crack. Cracks in the enamel are likely to be caused by clenching and grinding or by a blow to the teeth.
What Can I do About This?
Again, a crack needs to be evaluated by your dental care team. If your tooth has a serious crack and not just minor craze lines, your dentist may recommend a crown or other dental restorations to protect your tooth from further damage. If you are clenching and grinding your teeth, your dental care team might recommend a mouth guard to wear at night to help protect your teeth from future damage.
Probable Culprit #3: Sensitivity from receding gums
When teeth are sensitive, the gums are frequently involved. If you have a mild form of gum disease, your gums may recede some, exposing the lower tooth surfaces which are highly sensitive to the acids in sweet foods. You may also have gum recession after orthodontic treatment. Even though the cause of the gum recession is different, the pain from eating sugary foods remains the same.
What Can I Do About It?
It’s a good idea to have your teeth and gums checked out by your dental care team to make sure that there are no serious problems any time you have persistent pain in your teeth. If you have mild gum disease, homecare routines with appropriate products meant to control oral bacteria and help your gums recover from the periodontal infection, coupled with improved brushing and flossing technique can help your recover from mild gum disease under the supervision of your dental care team. If the pain is persistent and/or is related to recession from orthodontic care, your dentist may offer you the option of bonding, a process where a dental resin is permanently applied to the exposed root surfaces, protecting them from sugar acids and reducing sensitivity.
Any time you are experiencing regular tooth pain, it’s a good idea to touch base with your dental care team to make sure you don’t miss an early sign of a potentially serious problem. Although we sometimes think of dentists causing discomfort, your dentist’s goal is to improve your oral health. That means they don’t want you to have oral pain and are happy to help you try and treat any pain that may arise.