When taking a bite of a warm piece of pizza or other hot food, you wince from tooth pain. This sensitivity to warmth may last for some time and can indicate the presence of a serious dental condition. Knowing when to seek medical treatment is important to ensuring your continued dental health.

Your teeth consist of several layers, according to Simple Steps Dental, a dental care website reviewed by the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine. An outer coating of enamel protects the middle portion or your tooth, known as the dentin. The dentin consists of small openings that cover tooth pulp — where the nerves are. If your enamel has worn down, you may be more sensitive to temperatures, including warmth and cold.

Experiencing tooth pain when eating warm foods can be the result of several factors that have resulted in the breakdown of your tooth enamel. These include taking poor care of your teeth, having untreated cavities, brushing too hard, having receding gums or developing a crack in a filling, according to Simple Steps Dental. Enamel wearing down also can be the result of aging that causes your tooth enamel to wear down over time.

Heat-sensitive teeth often begin as cold-sensitive teeth, according to My New Smile, a dentist-written educational website. Teeth progress by sensitivity as dental decay occurs. If left untreated, your decay can progress to become heat sensitivity that causes pain when you eat warm foods. At this time, you may find that cold things, such as ice water, relieve pain. Sensitivity to warmth can indicate a serious level of decay. If you experience this, seek medical treatment immediately.

Two types of heat sensitivity related to tooth pain exist, according to Dr. Virginia P. Humphrey, a Palo Alto, California-based dentist writing on her website. Reverse pulpitis causes short bursts of pain as a reaction to heat and is caused by cavity or injury. Pulp necrosis is a throbbing pain that lasts for several minutes after heat exposure. This pain indicates that nerve tissue has died and an infection has formed in its place.

Treating your warmth-sensitive teeth depends upon the severity of the pain and cause of damage, according to the American Dental Association. If the damage is minimal, your physician may prescribe a densensitizing toothpaste to reduce nerve pain transmissions. Fluoride gel can be applied in your dentist’s office to strengthen tooth enamel or a tooth sealant to treat receding gums may be used. If the damage to the nerve roots is to severe, your physician may recommend a root canal, which removes diseased nerve pulp to reduce these nerve sensations.

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