Ask a Doctor: Why Sweets Sometimes Make Your Teeth Hurt

June 5, 2014 Updated: June 5, 2014

Dr. John Koutsoyiannis, D.D.S.: It is not normal for sweet or sugary foods to cause pain in one’s teeth, but it can occur.

There is more than one reason why this may happen. One is that it may be an indicator of a cavity. Cavities form when there is a breakdown of tooth structure due the increase in acidity that forms as a byproduct of the breakdown of sugary substances by the bacteria in your mouth.

Maintaining a good oral hygiene regimen each time you eat can help to decrease the risk of getting cavities.

It could also be due to exposure of the dentin (middle layer) of the tooth, which is normally covered by enamel above the gumline and by cementum below the gumline. Dentin contains tiny openings called tubules, and inside each lies a nerve branch that comes from the tooth’s pulp (or the nerve center of the tooth).

When the dentin is exposed, cold or hot temperatures or pressure can affect these nerve branches, which causes sensitivity. Dentin becomes exposed when the outer protective layers of enamel or cementum wear away. This can affect one or more teeth. Some causes of dentin exposure include untreated cavities, poor oral hygiene, an old filling with a crack or leak, receding gums, and frequently eating acidic foods and drinking acidic liquids.

There are many things that can cause “sensitive teeth” [and make us] feel twinges of pain or discomfort in our teeth in certain situations. These can be caused by eating sweets or drinking or eating hot or cold things. If you are experiencing this type of pain when you eat sugary foods, see your dentist. Timely treatment by your dentist is important.

Dr. John Koutsoyiannis has a private practice in SoHo. See:

*Image of “woman with hypersensitive teeth” via Shutterstock