What You Need to Know About Tooth Sensitivity in Children

Although tooth sensitivity is more common in adults, children can also develop sensitivity to hot, cold, or pressure on the teeth. Tooth sensitivity may not be the same as a toothache caused by a cavity, but the conditions can overlap. Any time your child complains about a sensitive tooth, call our office to determine whether you need an appointment for an evaluation.

Signs of Tooth Sensitivity in Children

Your child will likely tell you if a tooth is bothering them, but it can be difficult to vocalize for younger children. There are a few symptoms to watch for that indicate tooth sensitivity in children, including:

  • Complaints of stinging, tingling, or pain, especially when eating or brushing the teeth
  • Avoiding hot, cold, or spicy foods they usually enjoy
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Flinching when eating hard or crunchy foods
  • Repeatedly touching the side of the face as though in pain
  • Lack of appetite

Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity in Children

Various things, including cavities and dental injuries, can trigger tooth sensitivity. However, some causes are less obvious and may be overlooked.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Even children who brush their teeth twice daily may have poor oral hygiene if they don’t brush efficiently. Food debris can get stuck between the teeth and irritate the gums, leading to inflammation and rubbing away at tooth enamel.

Tooth Decay and Enamel Wear

Tooth decay is the most apparent reason for tooth sensitivity, but worn enamel is often the first sign of a problem. Pain can become severe if the cavity has breached the enamel and the pulp is exposed. Before the pulp is affected, thinning enamel can trigger sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages.

Loose Fillings

Dental fillings protect a damaged or decayed tooth but do not last forever. If your child has a filling that is loose or has pulled away from the surrounding crown, tooth sensitivity ensues. Chewing sticky or crunchy foods may loosen a filling, exposing the soft core of the tooth and irritating sensitive nerve endings.

Sinus Infections

Although less common, sinus infections can also cause tooth sensitivity in children because the sinuses sit directly above their upper teeth. When the sinuses are inflamed, or fluid builds up, they put pressure on the roots of the teeth and the jawbone, leading to tooth sensitivity in children. If you suspect a sinus infection, contact your child’s pediatrician for an appointment.

New Tooth Eruption

As your child’s permanent teeth erupt, they loosen and push out the baby teeth. During this transition, toothaches and sensitivity are natural. The area can become inflamed, resulting in hypersensitivity. If the discomfort continues after the primary tooth is lost and the permanent tooth erupts, there may be an underlying issue.

What to Do if Your Child Has Tooth Sensitivity

If your child has had a sensitive tooth for more than a few days, contact our office at San Mateo Office Phone Number 650-372-9292 to schedule an appointment. In the meantime, you can keep them comfortable by ensuring they are brushing with a soft bristle toothbrush and using a children’s mouth rinse containing fluoride, which can help protect the enamel. Warm (not hot) saltwater rinses may be soothing, but make sure your child spits the saltwater without swallowing it. A cool, wet teabag placed over the sensitive tooth can temporarily reduce inflammation and sensitivity until Drs. Vakili or Lam sees them.