It can be puzzling and concerning when your bottom teeth rapidly become sensitive, especially if they haven’t given you problems in the past. You likely didn’t change toothpaste brands, whiten your teeth, or have any dental work done recently that would explain the sudden discomfort. So where is this sensitivity coming from? And why is it only isolated to the lower teeth rather than the entire mouth?
Experiencing sudden sensitivity localized only to the bottom teeth is not considered normal. While everyday triggers like cold foods or brushing cause minor sensitivity in most people occasionally, a rapid onset of severe sensitivity specifically in the lower arch is usually a sign of an underlying dental issue.
However, the good news is that there are only a handful of potential culprits that may be the cause behind your lower teeth acting up out of nowhere. Things like tooth decay, cracked enamel, gum recession, occlusal trauma from nighttime grinding, or recent dental procedures can all cause acute pain when consuming hot, cold or sweet foods.
Pinpointing the exact reason for the sensitivity is key, as the treatment will depend on the specific etiology.
What causes sensitive teeth all of a sudden?
Here are some of the most likely causes of sudden sensitivity striking your lower teeth:
1. Tooth Decay or Cavity
When the protective layers of enamel and dentin are compromised, the sensitive inner structures of the tooth are exposed. This makes your teeth susceptible to pain, especially when you consume hot, cold, or sweet foods.
2. Fractured or Cracked Tooth
A hairline crack in your tooth that reaches the pulp chamber can cause sharp and intense pain, particularly while chewing.
3. Worn Enamel
Years of consistent abrasion, grinding, or acid erosion can wear away the protective enamel coating of your teeth. When this enamel is eroded, the underlying dentin becomes exposed, leading to sensitivity.
4. Gum Recession
Receding gums expose the vulnerable root surfaces of your teeth. The roots don’t have a protective coating (enamel) like the crown (tooth section above the gums), making them highly sensitive to external stimuli.
5. Recent Dental Treatment
Sensitivity is a common occurrence after certain dental procedures like fillings, crowns, or whitening treatments. Fortunately, this sensitivity usually resolves within a few weeks as your teeth adjust to the changes.
6. Tooth Grinding or Clenching
Bruxism, or teeth grinding and clenching, can exert excessive pressure on your teeth. This pressure not only causes pain but also wears down your tooth enamel, making your teeth more sensitive.
Inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis, is an early stage of gum disease. Tender and easily irritated gums can contribute to sudden tooth sensitivity.
8. Nerve Injury
Sometimes, dental procedures, especially invasive ones, can irritate the pulp or root nerve. This irritation leads to discomfort, which gradually resolves as the area heals.
Diagnosing Tooth Sensitivity
To pinpoint which of these issues is causing your sudden tooth sensitivity, your dentist can perform sensitivity testing:
- Cold testing – Applying cold air or ice to each area to isolate sensitivity.
- Hot testing – Using warm instruments to map out any heat-sensitive teeth.
- Percussion – Tapping lightly on teeth to identify potential hidden cracks based on pain response.
- Probing – Checking for looseness at the gumline indicating recession.
- X-rays – Imaging helps find hidden decay, damage, or apex abnormalities.
- Bite analysis – Evaluating your bite for sources of pressure on sensitive teeth.
Treating Sudden Sensitivity
Once the cause is found, your dentist will recommend targeted treatment:
- Fillings, crowns, or extraction – Treating decay and damage.
- Nightguard – Protects against clenching and grinding forces.
- Desensitizing toothpaste – Formulas for sensitive teeth block pain signals.
- Dental bonding – Covers exposed root surfaces.
- Gum grafting – Replaces lost gum tissue if recession is present.
Promptly consulting your dentist allows for rapid pain relief when sudden tooth sensitivity strikes. Be sure to call right away if it does not resolve within a few days.
Home remedies for Tooth Sensitivity
Here are a few readily available solutions for sensitive teeth that you can try at home to help ease the discomfort:
1. Desensitizing Toothpaste
Use a desensitizing toothpaste containing potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. These compounds help block the tiny tubules in your teeth, reducing sensitivity.
2. Soft-Bristled Toothbrush
Opt for a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle brushing techniques. Brushing too hard can wear down enamel and expose sensitive areas.
3. Fluoride Rinse or Gel
Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and can reduce sensitivity. Use a fluoride mouthwash or gel as recommended by your dentist.
4. Saltwater Rinse
Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater. Saltwater has natural disinfectant properties and can reduce inflammation, providing temporary relief.
5. Avoid Acidic Foods
Acidic foods and drinks can erode tooth enamel, increasing sensitivity. Limit your consumption of citrus fruits, tomatoes, and sodas.
6. Avoid Extreme Temperatures
Hot and cold foods and drinks can trigger sensitivity. Opt for lukewarm or room temperature items instead.
7. Oil Pulling
Swishing coconut oil or sesame oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes may help reduce bacteria and promote oral health, potentially reducing sensitivity.
8. Avoid Teeth Grinding
If you grind your teeth, especially at night, consider using a mouthguard to protect your teeth from further damage.
9. Clove Oil
Clove oil has natural numbing properties. Apply a small amount of clove oil to a cotton ball and dab it gently on the sensitive tooth.
10. Avoid Teeth Whitening Products
Teeth whitening products can worsen sensitivity. If you’re experiencing sensitivity, avoid using these products until the issue is resolved.
11. Green Tea
Green tea contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can promote oral health. Rinse your mouth with cooled green tea for relief.
These remedies can provide temporary relief, as you consult a dentist.
While sudden sensitivity in your bottom teeth can be disturbing, identifying the source through dental exam allows it to be addressed quickly with appropriate treatments tailored to your specific situation. The most common offenders include dental decay, cracks, gum recession, and grinding which all have solutions. Don’t delay treatment so you can comfortably eat, drink, and brush again.