The Reasons Behind Sensitive Teeth

lady with sensitive teeth If you have sensitive teeth, you know just what a pain they can be to live with. Literally. Something as simple as taking a sip of a hot drink or a bite of ice cream can be downright excruciating. Thankfully, you don’t have to suffer in silence. There are ways to decrease the sensitivity of your teeth. To help prevent sensitive teeth from getting worse, you need to know what causes this condition. When you identify the problem, you can finally start taking steps to treat it and get a handle on the pain.

What Are Sensitive Teeth?

You sit down to breakfast and take a drink of your coffee. The pain sends shockwaves through your mouth, and the pain feels like you something is stabbing you in the face. This is a daily occurrence if you have sensitive teeth. Even just taking a breath of cold air can result in searing pain. However, many people aren’t exactly sure just what this condition actually is. Above the gum line, healthy teeth have an outer layer of enamel, which acts as a protective shield for the crowns of your teeth. Below the gumline, the teeth have cementum, which protects the roots of each tooth. Below these protective layers of enamel and cementum is dentin. Dentin is not as dense as either enamel or cementum. Contained in the dentin are microscopic tubules, which look like small canals or tiny hollow tubes. When the layers of enamel and cementum are damaged or eroded, the microscopic tubules in the dentin allow food and drinks to reach the nerves of teeth. Foods or drinks that are hot, cold, acidic, or sticky can all cause pain to sensitive teeth in an instant. Receding gums can also expose the dentin.

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

There are quite a few things that cause sensitive teeth. Anything that erodes the enamel that makes up the top layer of your teeth or otherwise exposes the inner layer of dentin can result in teeth that are sensitive. Brushing too hard with a stiff-bristled toothbrush can wear down the enamel of the teeth, exposing the dentin and causing sensitivity. A diet of acidic or sugary foods and drinks can also damage the enamel on your teeth. Having tooth decay, also known as cavities, can allow food and drinks to reach the inside of your teeth, irritating the nerves. Old fillings that are prone to leakage can also enable foreign substances to enter the tooth and cause pain. Broken teeth can have the same result. Receding gums can also cause sensitive teeth, leading to pain when drinking or eating. Grinding your teeth at night is another reason that teeth can weaken and become sensitive. Although the dentist’s job is to keep your smile healthy, dental work can sometimes lead to sensitive teeth. Procedures such as fillings, crowns, and tooth bleaching can all cause your teeth to become more sensitive than usual. This is very common, even if it is painful. The good news is that the increased sensitivity from dental work is usually temporary and will improve with time. Similarly, using a tooth whitening toothpaste can cause sensitive teeth.

How to Treat Sensitive Teeth

If you have sensitive teeth, your biggest concern is probably learning what you can do to decrease the sensitivity so you can enjoy your favorite foods again. If you suddenly start to feel new pain in your mouth, the first thing you should do is make an appointment with your dentist for an exam. Your dentist is the only one who can tell you whether or not your pain is coming from something like a cavity or a worn filling. If your dentist decides that your teeth are just sensitive and you don’t need any immediate dental work, there are products available that can help you get the pain and sensitivity under control.


There are many kinds of toothpaste on the market that treat sensitive teeth. One example is Sensodyne. However, there are many other brands available, some of which are from reputable companies such as Colgate. These all contain unique ingredients that fill the microscopic tubules, thus reducing the ability of food and drinks to flow into them. This, in turn, decreases the sensitivity of your teeth. You can notice the pain relief from this type of toothpaste after brushing only a few times.


An alternative to this special type of toothpaste is mouthwash that serves the same purpose. Mouthwashes, such as Listerine Sensitivity, can reduce pain for up to 24-hours. This alcohol-free mouthwash, which contains potassium oxalate, does the same basic thing as the toothpaste for sensitive teeth. The mouthwash utilizes Crystal Block Technology to fill the microscopic tubules with crystals, thus reducing the pain experienced when food or drinks get into them.

Desensitizing Gel

Another option for treating sensitive teeth is desensitizing gel, which you “paint” on using a small brush. Products like SenzAway gel are clinically proven, and FDA approved for decreasing the pain of tooth sensitivity. These treatments strengthen teeth while building up their resistance to the bacteria and acidic foods or drinks that damage teeth and lead to sensitivity.

Preventing Sensitive Teeth

It is always easier to prevent an issue with sensitive teeth than it is to treat the issue after it starts, as is usually the case. However, whether you have never had sensitive teeth, have successfully treated them with one of the products above, or are wanting to make sure your condition doesn’t get worse, these steps can make all the difference. First, remember that a healthy mouth doesn’t hurt, so good dental hygiene is essential. Brush gently at least twice a day. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and resist the urge to use a lot of force. Brushing harder doesn’t mean better. In addition to regular brushing, make sure you clean your mouth as soon as you finish eating. Don’t worry. This doesn’t necessarily mean brushing and flossing after every little snack. You can remove bacteria by rinsing with water, as well as decrease acidity. Doing this also helps to prevent sensitivity. Don’t clamp or grind your teeth. Stay away from hard candy, don’t chew ice, and never ever use your teeth to do things like twist the cap off of a bottle. If you have a habit of grinding your teeth at night, a mouth guard can keep your teeth from being worn down while you sleep. These look like they would be uncomfortable to sleep in but most people get used to them fairly quickly. In addition to reducing sensitivity in your teeth, mouth guards can also treat various other types of mouth pain, jaw pain, and headaches. And finally, although it should go without saying, don’t use chewing tobacco.

Don’t Suffer in Silence

Sensitive teeth do not have to be a life sentence. There is no need to continue suffering in silence every time you take a drink of hot tea. Ice cream doesn’t have to be your mortal enemy. Your dentist should be your first stop when facing any oral pain, but there are things you can do on your own to decrease the sensitivity of your teeth. Good oral care can prevent sensitive teeth from developing in the first place. But if you do find that eating or drinking the wrong thing sends waves of pain through your face, there are products available to help. Regularly using a toothpaste, mouthwash, or tooth gel designed to reduce sensitivity can have you eating and drinking what you want without pain before you know it. Even better is the news that these treatments for sensitive teeth are available over-the-counter and don’t cost a fortune. As far as troubles with teeth go, sensitivity is a relatively cheap fix. Don’t let sensitive teeth control your life or ruin your meal. Take matters into your own hands and get control of your sensitive teeth today. Featured Image: Video screen capture, JAGRUK, via

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