This Is Why Your Teeth Hurt When You Eat Sweets

When we say we have a sweet tooth, we don't usually mean that literally. But if cookies, cakes, and other sweets cause you pain, that's not really a sweet tooth — it's tooth sensitivity. The Journal of the American Dental Association says that 1 in 8 people have sensitive teeth — and ice cream, candy, and mocha lattes aren't the only culprits (via Everyday Health). 

It turns out several factors can trigger pain or discomfort in one or more teeth at particular moments. These include foods or drinks that are hot, cold, spicy, acidic, and sweet (via Healthline). But even cold air, brushing, or flossing around certain teeth, and using alcohol-based mouth rinses can cause people with sensitive teeth to feel a jolt (via Healthline).

Whether sweets are more of a trigger for you than other foods, one underlying cause is having thinner tooth enamel, dentists say. In healthy teeth, the enamel is the tough but thin outer covering that protects the crown, or the part of your tooth above the gum line (via the American Dental Association). When the enamel becomes damaged or exposed, heat, cold, and other stimuli can reach the nerves inside your tooth, causing sensitivity.

Check with your dentist whether your sensitive teeth indicate a cavity

Some medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD, can wear down tooth enamel over time, according to Healthline. But so can grinding your teeth at night (a condition called bruxism), using a hard toothbrush, regularly eating or drinking acidic foods or beverages, or brushing your teeth too hard. Lots of us are apparently too vigorous with our toothbrushes: One-third of 700 dentists surveyed by the Academy of General Dentistry say poor tooth-brushing technique is the second-leading cause of tooth sensitivity (via Crest).

Sensitive teeth also can be a symptom of gum disease, tooth decay (better known as cavities), fractured teeth, worn fillings, and exposed tooth rot, the American Dental Association says. While proper oral hygiene is the best preventive measure, talk to your dentist about how severe your pain or sensitivity is. Brushing with a desensitizing toothpaste or asking your dentist to apply a fluoride gel can help soothe mild sensitivity and strengthen tooth enamel. A more serious issue may require a crown, bonding, or other treatment, dentists say.