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Is it a sensitive tooth, or a cavity? If you’ve experienced a flare of pain when sipping a latte or taking a big bite of ice cream, you might be wondering about the difference. Tooth sensitivity ranges from annoying to outright alarming, since no one wants to suffer while eating their favorite hot and cold foods. But by understanding the signs of a sensitive tooth or cavity, you can start to explore the best treatment options to get your tooth sensitivity back under control. While both cause dental pain, there are distinct differences between a toothache and sensitivity that can help you identify them. Here’s everything you need to know about tooth sensitivity, whether it’s likely to be a sensitive tooth or a cavity, and how to start getting treatment. 

The Difference Between Tooth Sensitivity and a Cavity

Does cold sensitivity mean a cavity? What about sensitivity to heat or sweetness? While a cavity can cause many types of sensitivity, a sensitive tooth doesn’t always mean you have a cavity. Tooth pain from heat or cold can stem from a number of factors. One of the biggest causes of tooth sensitivity is thinning enamel. Most adults experience weakening enamel as their teeth suffer the wear and tear of harsh foods, rough tooth brushing, and poor dental care. Acid reflux or frequent vomiting can trigger tooth sensitivity, as stomach acid erodes your enamel. As enamel gets thinner, there’s less of a buffer between your teeth’s sensitive dentin and the stimuli in your mouth. That’s why, when you take a swig of a cold beverage, you might experience a sudden flare of pain.

Where sensitivity can be caused by thinning tooth enamel, cavities are different. They form when a hole in your enamel allows bacteria to enter your tooth, causing damage and discomfort. Sometimes a cavity causes sensitivity, but other times it can result in a dull, longer-lasting ache that doesn’t go away even when you’re done eating or drinking. You may also notice a small dark spot on your tooth, but some cavities are mostly painless. 

So if you’re wondering, “Does tooth sensitivity always mean a cavity?” the answer is that it can be difficult to tell. Due to the overlap between symptoms of sensitivity or a cavity, it’s crucial to seek a professional opinion.

Is It a Cavity or a Sensitive Tooth?

Only a dentist can determine whether you have a sensitive tooth or a cavity. No matter the cause of your tooth sensitivity, it’s wise to seek treatment as quickly as possible. If your enamel is thinning, you may need to change your dental regimen or toothpaste to stop your pain and strengthen your enamel. A dentist should treat your cavity as quickly as possible to avoid further discomfort or tooth decay. At Pinnacle Dental Associates, we’re standing by to help you make sure your teeth are healthy and sensitivity-free. If you have any more questions about your tooth sensitivity or would like to schedule an appointment, contact us at 541-928-9299 or book online.