Your Guide To How to Prevent An Exposed Nerve

Protecting ourselves from having an exposed nerve in the root of our teeth is important for oral purposes and overall well-being. If you ignore it, it can get bad to the point where your tooth will start hurting a lot and become sensitive. To the point where you will have to deal with more complicated dental issues.

Many factors affect this condition, such as erosion of enamel1, gum recession, and overall physical damage to gum tissue and the tooth. Understanding these causes can help us establish preventative strategies to keep it from happening.

Throughout this article, we will help you understand what an exposed nerve is, how it affects your dental health, and how to prevent it.

exposed nerve
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Exposed Nerve: A Deeper Look

When we think of dental health, shiny white teeth or fresh breath come to mind. But the core of dental wellness lies beneath the surface, in the delicate network of nerves inside our teeth. An exposed nerve occurs when protective enamel wears away revealing its inner layers — this can lead to sharp pain especially when eating hot or cold foods.

The importance behind preventing an exposed nerve is that severe pain doesn’t happen and treatments don’t have to happen either — that’s money saved in your pocket.

Also so nerves are protected which helps maintain tooth sensitivity and a strong tooth structure. If not taken care of then our favorite foods might be uncomfortable to eat and we could lose some natural teeth.

Different Factors Causing Exposed Tooth Nerves

Gum Disease and Tooth Decay

Gum disease and tooth decay also known as bacteria build-up from food results in plaque which later turns into tartar2.

Tartar will eventually harm gums and teeth if not treated properly by a doctor, which will lead to receding gums or damaged enamel. Both expose sensitive teeth and tooth nerves, ultimately leaving them open to painful situations.

gum disease
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Misalignment Of Teeth & Dental Trauma

Misaligned teeth will create uneven wear and make cleaning harder, raising the risk of decay. Dental trauma3 from accidents or any type of contact sport can crack your teeth, once they’re cracked it is then easier to expose nerves directly or lead them to decay.

Harsh Brushing and Dental Fillings

Brushing too hard is dangerous for your enamel. You could essentially brush it away. If this happens frequently you will start seeing a change in your gums, if pushed back more than usual they will expose your tooth roots and nerves.

Dental fillings are similar to tooth decay — when a dental filling is not sealed properly little spaces are left open for bacteria to enter which causes decay that can also expose a nerve.

How To Identify An Exposed Tooth Nerve

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of an exposed nerve include sharp sudden pain in a tooth especially when eating or drinking something hot, cold, or sugary.

Some people may feel a dull ache or increased sensitivity all the time. These are signs that you may have an exposed nerve and should go see a doctor as soon as possible.

tooth pain
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Diagnosis Process of Exposed Nerves

Doctors diagnose exposed nerves through exams and X-rays. These help them find out where the nerve is by looking at visible signs like receding gums or dark spots indicating decay.

They test your teeth’s response to temperature and pressure as well, so don’t worry about having an exposed nerve without knowing how to prove it’s there.

Preventive Measures

Apart from brushing, using a soft-bristled toothbrush will be way gentler. If you grind your teeth at night and nothing can be done about it, maybe consider getting a mouthguard4.

Visiting your dentist regularly for checkups is also beneficial. They’ll be able to spot early signs of problems before they become a bigger issue.

Diet and Nutrition for Dental Health

A balanced diet is always important when it comes to health. Calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, and vitamin C all play important roles in maintaining dental health as well.

Calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, and leafy green vegetables support healthy teeth and gums by strengthening the enamel. Eggs, fish, and lean meats contain phosphorus, which repairs tissues.

Vitamin D helps the body process calcium effectively making it essential for maintaining strong teeth. Vitamin C on the other hand supports gum health.

balanced diet
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Avoidance of Sugary and Acidic Foods

We all know that sugar leads to cavities, but not everyone knows why. The bacteria in our mouths feed on sugar, producing acid that can damage our teeth causing cavities.

Acidic beverages such as sodas or juices can also erode tooth enamel over time due to frequent consumption. Immediately after meals, rinse with water or chew gum (sugarless) as these both increase saliva flow, helping to wash away extra bits of food stuck.

Stress Management

Believe it or not, stress has an impact on oral health, too. Involuntary tooth grinding/clenching caused by bruxism exposes dentin/nerves since it wears down tooth surfaces while sleeping.

The best way to manage stress is through meditation/exercise/therapy/support groups, but using night guards can help prevent further damage until those methods start working.

Just because you have immediate relief broken tooth, doesn’t mean the problem’s gone forever! As mentioned earlier, professional care is needed alongside good oral hygiene, diet choices, stress management, and routine checks, as they form the basis for maintaining a healthy and pain-free smile.

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Treatment Options

Professional Dental Treatments

If you have an exposed nerve, your dentist may suggest a root canal5. It removes the damaged nerve and seals your tooth. If it’s not that severe then a filling, crown6 or bonding is enough to cover the exposed area or cracked tooth while also protecting the nerve.

Home Remedies and Pain Management

While professional dental treatment is the best option for an exposed nerve, here are temporary measures to help manage dental pain until you can see a dentist. Remember, these aren’t permanent replacements for professional diagnosis/treatment but are only used in times of discomfort.

  1. Salt Water Rinse: Helps with reducing inflammation/pain. Salt has natural disinfectant properties7, which might help stave off infection.
  2. Clove Oil: Clove oil has numbing effects, so applying a small amount on the affected area will provide relief until professional treatment becomes available.
  3. A cold compress or ice pack: Applying a cold compress or an ice pack to the outside of your cheek over the painful area can reduce swelling and numb the pain. Never apply ice directly to your teeth, which can worsen the pain.
  4. Over-the-counter pain relievers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs8) like ibuprofen can provide temporary relief by reducing inflammation in the mouth. However, do not take more than the recommended dose; check with a healthcare provider if you’re unsure.

Note that home remedies and self-care measures aren’t long-term solutions. Dental problems, especially ones that involve exposed nerves, need professional treatment to avoid further issues and complications.

It’s very important not to ignore dental issues because they can cause serious conditions, such as infections that could spread beyond your mouth.

clove oil
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

In summary, staying on top of your oral health, protecting your teeth from damage, maintaining a sensible diet, and making smart lifestyle choices are all proactive steps toward preventing exposed nerves and other dental problems.

If you suspect that you have an exposed nerve in one of your teeth — whether because you’ve been experiencing symptoms or because it was noted during a dental examination — consult with a dentist immediately for an accurate diagnosis followed by appropriate treatment to protect your dental health.

Long-Term Care and Follow-Up

Maintaining Dental Health Post-Treatment

After treatment for an exposed nerve, continue taking care of your teeth in general so other parts don’t get damaged. Be gentle around where you were treated, especially when brushing or flossing. Hold off on eating hard, sticky, or very hot/cold foods for now so that the exposed tooth root can heal after being treated at the dentist.

Adding these foods back into your diet will help guide further attention if there is still sensitivity in that area.

Regular Dental Checkups and Early Intervention

Don’t skip out on regular checkups either so another exposed nerve can be treated, if there is one. Your dentist will do what they always do and share personalized advice on oral care that benefits you. Regularly going may also detect future problems early before they escalate.

Considering fluoride treatments9 or using toothpaste and mouthwash containing it might be something to talk with your dentist about as well.

This mineral strengthens the outer part of your teeth, making them more decay-resistant. It can also help protect nerves that are already exposed to further damage by reducing acid formation.

Lastly, ask your dental professional if getting a sealant10 put on is a plausible choice for you. It acts as a barrier against bacteria and acids that cause issues like decay.

Photo by Caroline LM on Unsplash

The Takeaway

As mentioned earlier, when discussing long-term care and the importance of follow-up post-treatment for an exposed dental nerve, additional steps and lifestyle changes are worth incorporating into your routine for better dental health.

Following everything listed above provides a solid foundation for good oral wealth, but doing even more can bring it up another notch or two.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How quickly should I seek treatment if I suspect an exposed nerve?

A: Immediate professional help should be sought after if you think a nerve in one of your teeth is exposed. The sooner you see an emergency dentist to get a diagnosis and treatment the less serious things could become.

Q2. Is it possible for exposed nerves to heal by themselves?

A: If you’re in this situation, I have bad news. Exposed nerves in teeth don’t heal on their own. You’ll need professional help to get rid of the pain and the nerve exposure itself.

Q3. What are signs that might mean I have an exposed nerve?

Some common signs include:

– Sharp and intense tooth pain when your tooth is exposed to stimuli (hot, cold, sweet).

– The same sharp pain when you apply pressure.

– Sharp pain when you breathe in cold air.

Q4. Do I need to watch what I eat post-treatment?

Yes! Stick with soft foods if possible. Avoid anything that could damage your restoration or irritate the treated area, like hard or sticky foods.

Q5. Can home remedies heal an exposed nerve or make it better?

While they can provide temporary relief, they aren’t going to fix the root of the problem. It’s important to follow up with a dentist for a comprehensive treatment plan so you aren’t stuck dealing with this forever.


  1. Gil-Bona, Ana, and Felicitas B. Bidlack. “Tooth enamel and its dynamic protein matrix.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences 21.12 (2020): 4458. ↩︎
  2. Yulyanti, N. F., Laut, D. M., Laela, D. S., & Heriyanto, Y. (2022). Dental and Oral Health Care for TN. DF With Complaints of Dental Tartar. Jurnal Terapi Gigi dan Mulut1(2), 1-6. ↩︎
  3. Magno, Marcela Baraúna, et al. “Associations and risk factors for dental trauma: A systematic review of systematic reviews.” Community dentistry and oral epidemiology 48.6 (2020): 447-463. ↩︎
  4. Hou, B., Yi, L., Li, C., Zhao, H., Zhang, R., Zhou, B. and Liu, X., 2022. An interactive mouthguard based on mechanoluminescence-powered optical fibre sensors for bite-controlled device operation. Nature Electronics5(10), pp.682-693. ↩︎
  5. Karobari, Mohmed Isaqali, et al. “Root and root canal morphology classification systems.” International Journal of Dentistry 2021 (2021): 1-6. ↩︎
  6. Safarov, M. T., & Tashpulatova, K. M. (2023). Analysis Of The Effectiveness Of Methods For Fixing Artificial Crowns And Bridges On Dental Implants. Образование Наука И Инновационные Идеи В Мире34(4), 36-38. ↩︎
  7. Karimi, A. (2021). Applications of ozone in dentistry and oral health: A systemic review. Science Progress and Research (SPR)1(3), 243-249. ↩︎
  8. Bindu, S., Mazumder, S., & Bandyopadhyay, U. (2020). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and organ damage: A current perspective. Biochemical pharmacology180, 114147. ↩︎
  9. Zhang, J., et al. “Topical fluoride to prevent root caries: systematic review with network meta-analysis.” Journal of dental research 99.5 (2020): 506-513. ↩︎
  10. Ng, Toby Cheuk-Hang, Chun-Hung Chu, and Ollie Yiru Yu. “A concise review of dental sealants in caries management.” Frontiers in Oral Health 4 (2023): 1180405. ↩︎

Last Updated on by Dr. Lehri Srivastava


Saket Kumar
Sathi Chakraborty, MSc Biology
Dr. Lehri Srivastava

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