Ask Dr. B: Why Are My Teeth Sensitive All of a Sudden?

why are my teeth sensitive all of a sudden

What's the cause of sensitive teeth all of a sudden? Try using the process of elimination.

Q: My teeth have all of a sudden become very sensitive the past few days and I don’t know why. They always feel like they are tingling and it hurts a lot. Do you know what could be causing this?

- Megan P.

A: Although I don’t have enough information to give you a precise answer, I can give you some general advice that will be useful for all of us that, at one point in our lives, have suffered from tooth sensitivity or pain.

When dentists and doctors go about diagnosing the source of pain, they use a method referred to as differential diagnosis, which is a systematic method used to identify unknowns, using the process of elimination.

So in your case, the first differential is this: Is the pain associated with all your teeth or just one tooth? Things that happen to a single tooth are typically singular events, such as a cavity or the need for a root canal or a cracked tooth. These are things that would not happen to all the teeth at the same time.

Then, by the process of elimination, we’ve eliminated the three possibilities above. Chances are that, because all your teeth have become suddenly sensitive, it is caused by something that is more global. For example, maybe you have just discovered a favorite new food and are eating it every day. This new food could be high in acid which, in a matter of a few days, could start making all of your teeth sensitive. Sudden changes in eating and other habits can cause this.

Another example of a more global causative factor in sensitive, tingling teeth would be a sudden increase in stress. For example, perhaps you just received word that a friend is gravely ill and your cortisol levels have increased. Increased cortisol levels stimulate grinding, or bruxism, which would definitely cause all of your teeth to all of the sudden become sensitive.

Another potential culprit is that you’ve just contracted a sinus infection and both your right and left sinuses are very infected and you’ve been blowing your nose a lot. Within a matter of days, all of your upper back teeth would become sore, painful and very sensitive to sudden motion and impact – such as walking or standing up.

It could also be a combination of global causative factors. For example, it could be the combination of the sudden interest in acidic food along with a change in the weather and cold ambient temperatures. Breathing in cold air after having consumed a lot of acidic foods would definitely make all your teeth tingle or ache. Or you could be whitening your teeth and drinking cold water afterward – another combination that could be the culprit.

I mention all of this just to give you a frame of mind with which to approach your symptoms. The best thing to do with this knowledge is to go see your dentist and to have a discussion about what has changed and what the source of this pain could be.

When you’re at the dentist, give him or her as many data points as possible. Think about what factors have changed recently and which ones have stayed the same to try to narrow down the cause of the sensitivity. This will help you attain the best diagnosis. But remember, sometimes to reach the best diagnosis, it is necessary to eliminate as many of the potential culprits as possible.

Mark Burhenne DDS

Photo courtesy of darrenfelgate

What other questions do you have about sensitive teeth? What’s been your experience with sensitive teeth? Let me know in the comments below — I read each and every one.

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com aman kushwaha

    what is sensitivity? and how the colgate sensitive helps the sensitive teeths

    • http://www.facebook.com/njabulo.khozi Njabulo Khozi

      Colgate sensitive only helps for few minutes then its back to the pain again. Sometimes I just want to eat this colgate but I can’t because I think about my semen

  • Jacque

    I went to the dentist a month ago. I went in for a cleaning, amd he said that I had six cavities and he was going to go ahead and fill them. I thouvht he new best so I said yes. From that day on, I have lost six pounds because I can only eat food blended up and through a straw. I takle advil everyday, which is not good at all. All my teeth are extremely sensitive to hot or cold and the food has to be just right. Pain is so much that I have had swollen face and slurred speach. I have gone to see him three times to fix the pro lem, but he didnt even losten to me saying that all my teeth hurt all the time, crying when I brush my teeth, and now a swollen face. Nothing was wrong before I went in, no pain from cavities or anything else. I dont know what to.do, please advise.

    • Kristi

      Go to another dentist! Your dentist sounds terrible.

    • NappyBunny

      Sue.

  • http://facebook naomi

    my toothe not the second but third from the left top adult tooth is very sensitive i cant eat hard food

  • John H

    I just had the same problem after taking antibiotics for 3 weeks for a sinus infection and tooth abcess at the same time. One nigh my whole mouth began to hurt so I went to the ER. I was told I probably had a fungal infection in the gums and mouth due to the antibiotics killing all the natural defenses in my mouth. I’m taking some medicine now for that and the pain has been relieved greatly, although not quite gone yet. I noticed the problem was more after I flossed than anything, but I still have to brush and floss –couldn’t go a day without doing that.

  • John H

    I just had the same problem after taking antibiotics for 3 weeks for a sinus infection and tooth abcess at the same time. One night my whole mouth began to hurt so I went to the ER. I was told I probably had a fungal infection in the gums and mouth due to the antibiotics killing all the natural defenses in my mouth. I’m taking some medicine now for that and the pain has been relieved greatly, although not quite gone yet. I noticed the problem was more after I flossed than anything, but I still have to brush and floss –couldn’t go a day without doing that.

  • http://Google willie mobley

    I have been having pain teeth up and down that started suddenly about two 3 weeks ago,I was told by some friend that it could be that i have a heart problem.

  • http://Google willie mobley

    I have teeth aching problem could i a heat disease that cause it ?

  • Mar mar

    I have had mild discomfort when chewing for some time. I had a flu shot last week, have been on antibiotics for an unrelated issue, had a fever (103.7) last night. We have fever down, and today I am with constant pain in my mouth. Sometimes it feels like it is the upper right and then it seems to be lower right. Very sensitive to cold beverages. See Dr. or Dentist?

  • Mbargaan

    I have been experiencing the same problem as you guys. For several days now. Three days ago I went to see the dentist. He radioed my teeth and said I have no problem with my teeth. He did not even give me any drug. I thought the pain will go but it’s not happening. Getting worse. Went to the gym as usual and I noticed that after the gym it got even worse. I am really suffering while I am writing these lines. Advil relieves me a little bit but I cannot continue taking same over several days. Please help me

  • bwsc98

    Both my wife and I experienced tooth pain in all of our teeth at the same time one day. We were staying at a Niagara Falls hotel with two of our kids. They had no issues. The only difference was that we both drank their coffeee from their buffet brekfast. Could it be a pot cleaner or the coffee or their water? It has stopped since then with no reoccurence.

  • Paul

    3 days ago I developed pain in all my teeth, and now searching for causes, which brought me here. I can tell you what I use to alleviate the pain. MMS and DMSO. The first time I tried it was about a year ago in the Dominican Republic, where I learned a great deal about it. A very serious infection developed from a rotten tooth in my lower right jaw. I experienced a lot of pain and my cheek blew out like a chipmunk. I sprayed MMS on my toothbrush and added a few drops of DMSO on it, to help carry the activated MMS (Chlorine Dioxide)deeper into the root – DMSO has the innate ability to penetrate through membrane. Though I could have done more, I brushed my teeth with it a couple of times a day. The pain became tolerable soon after, and was completely gone in three days. Funny, this was a year ago, I still have that tooth, and no problems so far. Just waiting for a windfall to get it pulled out and get some work done,lol

    • Chuck

      What the hell is MMS and DMSO?

  • Linda Yarbrough

    I had two crowns put on my teeth last week. This week the one tooth I had capped became very sensitive to hot or cold. Today the tooth is less sensitive than yesterday. I went to my dentist & she said after an xray that she couldn’t see anything wrong with the cap and suggested I go to a specialist for a root canal which costs $1000. I am questioning whether I need a root canal or not. Any comments on this would be appreciated.

  • B Michaels

    While appreciate the systematic approach the dentist suggested to discovering the etiology of having ALL of ones teeth become hyper sensitive, some disorders, diseases, etc. go beyond retracing ones steps as advised. I’m not certain about others but in my case, this issue is way beyond a slight sensitivity or mild pain. Honestly, every single tooth has hyper sensitive to both cold and air. Worse, even room temperature water sends me jumping about and holding my mouth as if wounded. It is now to the point, that even in speaking the slight air used in the production ne pronunciation of certain sounds is causing me to speak softly and carefully. I have some serious medical problems and discovered tht I hold my breath and sigh a greet deal which is equally painful. Eating is a delicate matter as well. I’ve found little on this subject save a number of protesters of the Crest Prohealth toothpaste (which I admit I too was using and their may be merit to some of those claims?) However, given that I have autonomic dysfunction and various neuropathy I am concerned that this might tie into the Trigeminal nerve as it does in TMN, TMJ, etc? Could the dentist possibly comment on other symptoms that might factor into this nerve branch being involved? Perhaps someone else has encountered these symptoms? I appreciate the attention and wish better health to all..

  • L

    Lately, in the past six months, all of my teeth have become sensitive to the point I don’t want to eat. And toothpaste for sensitive teeth has just made my teeth more sensitive. That doesn’t make sense but it’s true. I don’t have a new favorite food I eat all the time that is high is acidity or any of the above reasons. I have always had a lot of stress, and this has never happened, and at my last dental appointment, I mentioned it, and the answer I got was, “we all experience tooth sensitivity at one time or another in our lives.” It’s been ongoing in the last six months. So, I don’t know.

    • Anonymous

      I’m experiencing the same thing. One tooth on the top left a couple back from the front in particular for the past few months. Had a regular cleaning and xrays and showed nothing wrong. The dentist said bone degeneration of the teeth and recession is happening but the past few days have been unbearable with pain on the left side of my face, now my front bottom teeth are sore today. I can’t drink cold or hot liquids. I’ve been using sensitive toothpaste and my health is excellent and my diet hasn’t become more acidic. It’s a frustrating mystery.

  • LeoScott

    All of my teeth have suddenly become very sensitive to cold, also when I floss I notice that my gums are sensitive to the touch. This is unacceptable because my only vice is ice cream. It does not feel like my sinuses are acting up. I have had some recent cortisone injections. Any idea what’s going on?

  • Linda

    Ive just had a partial pallet put in ( my old one was worn out ) and my teeth top and bottom on my right hand side have become sensitive why is this , when I went to my dentist for my 6 month check up they could not find anything wrong

  • Anonymous

    This post is SOOOO on point. I have a sinus infection and my upper back teeth are extremely sensitive and it is most evident when i walk! I thought something was terribly wrong with me! but then again i am a hypochondriac

  • nayeli

    Two of my teeth suddenly just got sensitive and I know this might sound like the other person’s comment but it went away when I woke up and I’m kind of confused. One of my upper back teeth and upper front teeth started hurting when I touched them or moved them;I thought they were loose or something but I don’t think I feel anything now.

  • Pam

    My upper teeth feel like they are bruised and it causes me to have a pressure headache all the time. My dentist suggested that he file some of my teeth because he feels that my bite has shifted. My concern is that this filing will not work and then my good enamel will be gone and cause my teeth not to be protected. Any thoughts?

    • http://askthedentist.com/ Ask the Dentist

      Pam, what your dentist is referring to is occlusal equilibration and it MAY solve the problem. Ask your dentist if you have a CR-CO discrepancy and if that’s what he would like to fix. It’s not a bad idea, although using Invisalign is the better method because it gets the teeth in the right place instead of trying to adjust them by removing enamel. Removing a little bit of enamel isn’t a bad thing, though.

      - Dr. B

  • Shree

    I have had this problem too. First the upper teeth on the left side suddenly became sensitive. Someone said it’s because I’m getting my wisdom tooth now. But it abated in a few days with some precautions. Later all the upper teeth on the right side became sensitive (starting exactly in the middle). I thought this would go away similarly in a few days. But it hasn’t. They are still sensitive, though not as much as before. Funnily, the lower teeth are all fine, except one in the middle. I used to drink hot beverages earlier, now I drink only luke-warm and eat ice-cream once in a while. I had braces at the age of 20 and had my teeth cleaned many times (could that be a reason for the sensitivity?). Does using Sensodyne regularly help or is it only a temporary relief measure?
    Thanks in advance for your answer, Doc!