What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

tooth sensitivity

What is it?

Tooth sensitivity is a common condition. It is experienced as a painful sensation in the teeth, often occurring after eating or drinking something hot, cold, sweet or acidic. Normally, the dentin is covered by enamel, but over time, the enamel covering can thin, providing less protection from external stimulation. Also, the gums can also recede over time, exposing the underlying root surface dentin.

The dentin contains a large number of pores or tubes that run from the outside of the tooth to the nerve in the center. When the dentin is exposed, these tubes can be stimulated by changes in temperature or certain foods.


What causes it?

Exposure of the dentin is due to a number of factors. Some common causes are:


  • Gum recession, due to age or improper tooth brushing
  • Drinking acidic beverages, such as soda, can cause enamel erosion and dentin exposure
  • Tooth grinding can cause most or all of the teeth to feel sensitive
  • Brushing with an abrasive toothpaste, brushing incorrectly and/or brushing more than three times a day could result in a loss of enamel
  • A chipped or fractured tooth can also expose the dentin

In addition, certain dental treatments can cause tooth sensitivity. Teeth whitening, professional dental cleanings, orthodontics or fillings can cause sensitivity, either during or after the procedure.


What can I do about it?

The first step in dealing with dental sensitivity is to find out what the cause is; a dental professional can help you with this. If your sensitivity is due to exposed dentin, there are a number of steps you can take to help reduce the sensitivity. These can include:


  • Using a very soft-bristle toothbrush
  • Brushing correctly to help prevent enamel and gum recession
  • Using a toothpaste specially formulated to help reduce sensitivity, like Colgate® Sensitive
  • A dental professional can:
    • Apply fluoride varnish to the sensitive areas to help strengthen the tooth
    • Prescribe a high fluoride toothpaste for daily use
    • Place a dental restoration to build up the areas that have lost enamel

In the end, whether you need an in-office procedure or over-the-counter products, the most important step is to see a dental professional so that he or she can determine the cause of the tooth sensitivity and help you find a solution.