Sense of touch too sensitive?
December 23, 2007 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Why does rubbing my hands on clothing cause tooth discomfort?

Not always, but sometimes when I reach into my pants' pockets, that rubbing motion causes my whole mouth to feel weird, specifically my molars; it's not pain but it makes me want to bite down a couple of times to relieve it... The dryer my hands are the more discomfort I feel; and it's usually when I have dress pants on (cotton and/or polyester), it doesn't usually happen with denim...

I get a similar "vibrating" feeling when I (or someone I am looking at) rubs their hands on carpet, it's a weird feeling all over concentrating on my mouth and arms (makes me rub my arms)... Similar to the feeling when someone scratches a chalkboard with their fingernails...

Before posting this question, I did some research and found this article that links bright lights, loud noises, heavy perfumes, and itchy clothing to tooth sensitivity... but doesn't say much about why they are linked... coincidentally, I do wear sunglasses, do avoid perfumes (light or heavy), and can't stand itchy clothing...

Does anyone have any idea why this happens?
posted by MrBCID to Health & Fitness (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One of the odder remedies I ever heard for a toothache was to rub ice between your thumb and forefinger. I can't vouch for any of this, but the explanation given to me is that its a quirk of the nervous system.
posted by Weebot at 4:20 PM on December 23, 2007

Best answer: It sounds like fingernails-on-blackboard syndrome. I get it from touching that newfangled fleece that some high-tech blankets are made from, myself. Some people get it from touching polystyrene ("styrofoam" cups). Try running your finger around the rim of one of those to see if you're in the sensitive group. Most theories seem to rely on the fact that there's some sound, or ultrasonic component of sound, that is driving us crazy:

One theory

Sound is just vibration, of course, so this is probably all about sensitivity to various frequencies. Since there are odd cases of people with various mental disabilities having extreme versions of this...

Sweaters definitely seems to be some kind of neurally cross-wired response to very specific vibration frequencies, much like the way a sudden bright light will make one sneeze. It seems likely that the exact frequencies vary from person to person, but there are wide swaths that affect wide groups of people, like the aforementioned fingernails-blackboard combo.

I'm sure DARPA's all over this one.
posted by rokusan at 4:59 PM on December 23, 2007

I have a similar thing. It's something to do with the texture. It doesn't "hurt" anything but I don't like the texture/sound of moving my fingertips along things that have a lot of tiny ridges really close together. It makes me kinda pinch my lips together a bit and kind of wince. as Rokusan says, I see the exact same reaction on other people when they are subjected to the old fingernails on a chalkboard thing (which incidentally doesn't bother me at all).

With me it's definitely not any specific sound, as there is a tactile component involved. As I mentioned it has to do with small ridges or lines and motion over the fingers/fingertips, so one thing that sets it off for me is sliding fingers down the lower strings on a guitar (the wound strings), which did make picking up how to play a guitar a bit challenging for me, though I seem to have it under control in that context now. But just the other day I was at an outdoor store waiting in line and they had some bug mesh clothing hanging there and I felt it between my fingers and rubbed two sides of it together which gave me the same uncomfortable impression. Normal screens like in a window do not cause this, as the pattern is too far apart.

Honest to God I have no idea how this works, but I've had it at least as long as I can remember, and thankfully there's not a whole lot that sets it off in my case.
posted by barc0001 at 5:48 PM on December 23, 2007

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