When you lose part of the tooth enamel due to cavities, decay, injuries, longtime consumption of diets high in sugary and/or acids, or many other risks, you lose an essential hard mineral coating of your tooth.

This enamel loss causes the dentin (the underlying layer) to be vulnerable and accessible to outside risks. Then we get down to pain transmission and feeling of constant discomfort. The dental pulp, which is the core soft tissue inside teeth, contains dental nerves and responds to these outer stimuli of cold and hot temperature changes or bacterial activity on teeth and in the mouth.

Why are my teeth sensitive and how to stop it?

Have you ever experienced pain and discomfort after drinking or eating something hot or cold like a bite on ice cream? When you have sensitive teeth, it is likely that even breathing cold air can cause a slight pain in your teeth. Well, teeth sensitivity can be the result of a cavity, a cracked tooth, weakened enamel, exposed tooth root, a worn filling, or several other factors.

Teeth sensitivity can show itself as sharp temporary pain or can be recurrent, leaving you with a passing pain sensation or an uncomfortable feeling. If you know the roots and causes of sensitivity in your teeth, it will help you better understand why it happens and find a way to stop and relieve the teeth sensitivity easier.

What is teeth sensitivity?

Teeth sensitivity, called dentin hypersensitivity, occurs when enamel or cementum which act as protective layers for teeth erode and wear away. To explain this condition, we should know more about tooth structure. Our teeth have three hard tissues (enamel, cementum, and dentin) and one inner soft tissue that is called the dental pulp.

Enamel covers the upper part or the crown of each tooth. It is the hardest and the outer layer of tooth. Similar to enamel, cementum covers tooth but lower part of tooth, from the gum line to entire root of tooth. Dentin is the softer tooth structure with dentinal tubules or small channels. It allows the transmission of any stimuli like cold, hot temperatures, acids and sweets directly to the pulp. Dental pulp, which is the core soft tissue containing the nerves, veins and other connective soft tissues, will respond to these cold, hot and other triggers with the pain and sensitivity feelings.

What causes sensitive teeth?    

There are some factors that explain the sensitivity in your teeth including:

Tooth decay and poor oral hygiene.

If you are not brushing your teeth daily, you are contributing to more accumulation of plaque and tartar on teeth. By eating and drinking, you not only leave some leftover in your mouth, but you are feeding the plaque buildups and its colonies of bacteria, too. The plaque and tartar, in turn, produce acids, leaving you with tooth decay first and cavities or even tooth loss over time. Therefore, when plaque and food residue is not brushed away and when oral hygiene is neglected, you will expect damaged enamel and worn-down teeth, which increases the risks of teeth sensitivity due to dentinal tubules exposure to irritants.

Aggressive and vigorous tooth brushing.

Using hard-bristled toothbrushes or toothpaste with harsh ingredients makes enamel weakened. This hard physical tooth cleaning hurts your teeth and causes sensitivity in the long run.  

Gum diseases (gingivitis and periodontitis).

Gum problems will start with gingivitis that presents inflamed, sore and swollen gum symptoms, which can be accompanied with irritation in gums and sensitivity in teeth. If not treated, it will progress to much worse periodontal diseases, affecting periodontal bone.

Gum recession and exposed tooth root.

Your gums work to protect your teeth. If there is a receding gum condition, it causes more root exposure to outside damages. Then it causes teeth sensitivity and puts the cementum at greater risk, which is thinner protective layer of tooth.

Cracked, chipped and broken teeth.

Obviously, any injury to teeth can cause teeth sensitivity. When a tooth is broken or cracked, chances are that outer layer of teeth including the enamel has cracked open. It then allows for cold and hot stimuli to reach dentine easily and to allow for bacterial activity to infect the dental pulp inside.

Eating high-acidic and high-sugary diets.

If you are regularly consuming acidic and/or sugary foods and drink such as soda, candy, coffee, citrus fruits, sauces and other carbonated/acidic beverages and processed foods, you will damage enamel of tooth and make dentin susceptible.

Teeth grinding and bruxism.

You may grind your teeth intentionally or unintentionally because of emotional feelings like being angry. Or, you may grind teeth during sleep, the condition known as bruxism. It is necessary to have a custom mouthguard or a nightguard made at the dentist to prevent further damages to teeth and your dental restoration, thereby decreasing risks of sensitive teeth.

A recent dental procedure.

You may have gone through a slight dental treatment like teeth whitening or an extended dental work such as receiving dental filling, restoration, crown or other dental procedures lately. It may be followed by temporary teeth sensitivity that will normally disappear.

How to stop teeth sensitivity?

Now you wonder how you help teeth sensitivity and relive from pain and discomfort. Fortunately, there are both DIY home options and dentists’ treatment to consider for treating your sensitive teeth. Below you will find the treatments for teeth sensitivity:

Use desensitizing toothpaste.

You can find out the best toothpaste for sensitive teeth to relive form sensitivity and irritations easily at home. Toothpastes designed for sensitivity help block nerve transmission of pain through ingredients like potassium nitrate, lowering the sensitivity feelings dramatically and quickly. Desensitizing toothpastes will also fight cavities, strengthen teeth and help rebuild lost enamel using fluoride ingredients found in abundance and with different compositions.

Avoid acidic drinks and foods.

If you want to stay hydrated, try to avoid sugary and high-acidic beverages and instead drink more water. Cut down on coffee, soda, tea and energy drinks. Opt for healthier portions of foods instead of the quickly-made refined foods to keep up to oral and dental heath alongside your overall health.

Use soft-bristled toothbrush and brush gently.

Brushing teeth should bring about good rather than harm. Continue to brush your teeth twice daily with an appropriate soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Brush gently and avoid hard brushing with too much force.

Receive fluoride therapy (fluoride varnish).

Dentists can treat sensitivity in your teeth with a series of in-office or at-home fluoride applications. Fluoride is a key remineralizing agent used in oral care product like toothpastes. Because of higher concentration of fluoride in fluoride therapy, your dentists can increase the fluoride absorption in teeth. This treatment slows down tooth decay and prevents further caries’ progress. Fluoride therapy strengthens tooth enamel and hence minimize teeth sensitivity. 

Get dental bonding.

Dentists will use composite resin dental bonding to restore your damaged teeth in the most cosmetic way. Here, dentists will check the exposed tooth root and other wear and chips on your teeth that is responsible for teeth sensitivity. Then they apply the composite resin material.

Replace the worn filling with a new one.

If you have an old filling, visit your dentist to check out the stability of the filling and the health of the tooth. It might be that the filling has broken parts or the leakage associated with the filling material has caused the harmful effects on the rest of the tooth. Your dentist will plan for a new dental filling procedure to resolve both the sensitivity and the dental function.

Receive crown, inlay or onlay.

Dentists can switch to much serious dental procedures if the tooth decay and cavities on teeth are extensive. Your dentist may advise inlay, onlay or even dental crown to treat your teeth sensitivity. In onlay or inlay restoration, your dentist will remove either upper or central cavity-affected area of your tooth. Then he or she prepares the inlay or onlay according to the mold in a perfect size and bonds it into place. Your dentist may suggest dental crown procedure due to extensive level of damage to the tooth, where the entire outer tooth is removed and a lab-made dental crown is cemented over the remaining tooth.

Check out for gum graft procedure.

In case your teeth sensitivity is related to gum recession and exposed tooth roots, your dentist or dental specialist may choose surgical gum graft as the solution. They repair the excessive receding gum areas with grafting tissues that are taken from the healthier site in gum.

Have root canal examinations.

When your teeth sensitivity is due to the infected and damaged pulp inside your tooth/teeth, your dentist will recommend root canal treatment. It is a successful dental treatment done by endodontist or professionally trained dentist. Here, the root canals inside the aching tooth are cleaned and the inner infected soft tissue, dental pulp, is removed. Then dentists fill it with special dental material.

Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQ) around teeth sensitivity.

One tooth sensitive to cold or hot, what is the cause?

Since dental pulp inside the tooth is responsible for any stimuli like changes in hot or cold temperature on teeth, sensitivity in one special tooth is because of: 1-weakened and thinned enamel of the tooth. 2-cracks, chips and damages in that tooth. 3- exposure of the root and dentinal tubules to outer irritants 4-inflmmation and infection of the dental pulp in the tooth. 5-other factors.

How to treat teeth sensitivity after teeth whitening?

The higher dosage of bleaching agents used in teeth whitening treatments at the dentist’ or found in teeth whitening over-the-counter products can cause temporary sensitivity feelings. To prevent the sensitivity issue, dentists will apply fluoride (e.g. sodium fluoride) gel on teeth. They can formulate the peroxide-based whitening gel in lower or higher concentration depending on your tooth condition. Finally, dentists will normally use desensitizing agents in whitening to prevent teeth sensitivity during whitening treatment.
If you are seeking an at-home whitening kit, whitening strip or even whitening toothpaste, you can select the safe product to whiten your teeth comfortably at home. Home options also contain peroxide bleaches (in lower percentage) or additional level of abrasives. Keep in mind that teeth sensitivity is mild and temporary. Once you quit using the product, sensitivity disappears. 

What helps teeth sensitivity?

In order to prevent or stop teeth sensitivity, you can follow a healthier diet lower in sugar and acids, maintain oral and dental health with soft-bristled tooth brush and fluoride toothpaste and try a dentist-recommended toothpaste designed for teeth sensitivity as your home solution. Above all, visit your dentist regularly.

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