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Sensitive teeth: Causes, treatments and prevention

29 July 2022by Shiv

Do you often experience sudden sharp pain in your teeth radiating towards the jaw on eating hot or cold food items? This transient pain may be indicative of “tooth sensitivity.” Sensitivity can cause significant discomfort and deter you from eating the food you love. It can also become severe enough to restrict your dietary intake and hamper your day to day life.


If you are struggling with this issue, then you are in the right place. In this article, you will get a brief idea about what sensitivity is, what are the reasons that cause sensitivity, the best treatment options available, and the tips to prevent it.


What is tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is a condition in which your teeth become overly sensitive to any hot or cold food item that they come in contact with. The outermost layer of your tooth is called enamel, which is one of the most potent substances in our body. The enamel protects the delicate underlying tissues of the teeth, such as dental pulp, dentin and root canal. Another layer of protection is created by the cementum, which overlies and protects the root beneath the gum line. Due to some reasons, the enamel and cementum may get worn off or damaged. This exposes the thinner and less dense dentin to the outside. Dentin comprises microscopic tubules known as the dentinal tubules, which allow a plasma-like fluid to flow through them. Whenever you eat either hot or cold food, there are changes in the flow of this fluid. It triggers the mechanoreceptors and irritates the underlying nerve endings, causing sudden intense pain, which is known as tooth sensitivity. 


What are the major causes of tooth sensitivity? 

As already stated above, the leading cause of tooth sensitivity is dentin exposure due to the damaged enamel. Some of the causes of damage to enamel and cementum include:

  • Vigorous brushing: Long term usage of improper brushing technique or inappropriate toothbrush with stiff bristles can gradually abrade the enamel and expose the underlying dentin.
  • Bad oral hygiene: If you are negligent towards your oral hygiene, the bacteria will take advantage and find a substrate inside your mouth to grow and multiply. They will eventually eat up your entire enamel and lead to the formation of a cavity, which will expose all the underlying structures to the outside.
  • Neglected dental caries: If you have developed dental caries and left them untreated, you are at a high risk of developing sensitivity quite soon. Dental caries is a clear indication that your tooth has been infected and damaged, but if you still don’t pay heed to it, tooth sensitivity is clearly impending.
  • Receding gums: Gums can recede due to gingivitis or also with ageing. There is cementum beneath your gums that protect the roots of your teeth. But receding gums will expose cementum, which will get worn off soon, and roots will be exposed.
  • Inadequate dietary intake: If you frequently consume food or drinks rich in acids, such as carbonated drinks, your enamel will be damaged more quickly than ever. 
  • Leaking filling: If you had a cavity earlier and got it filled, there may be a risk of the filling getting loosened with time. The loose filling will start eroding as micro leakages.
  • Gum surgery: This is an iatrogenic cause of receding gums and tooth sensitivity. Gum surgery may be required in cases of severe gingivitis to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Teeth grinding: There are some conditions like bruxism, where you clench your teeth hard. It can damage your enamel. Also, teeth may be cracked or chipped due to excessive grinding, and bacteria start to grow in these cracks leading to decay.


How is tooth sensitivity treated?

Although tooth sensitivity may not completely disappear, there are plenty of options available that can reduce the pain and other problems. Some of these are home-based, while others are in-office procedures performed by professionals.

  • Desensitising toothpaste: These are safe and fairly effective in controlling pain due to sensitivity. There are many options available over the counter. A desensitising toothpaste consists of salts of potassium, strontium, and fluoride. They clog the identical tubules and prevent the flow of fluid through them, which was the major cause of sensitivity. The fluoride present in them helps in rebuilding the enamel and strengthening it by allowing it to regain the minerals.
  • Fluoride: Fluoride is used typically and can be applied at home using custom trays. It helps in strengthening the enamel and rebuilding the damaged part. Evidence has shown that people living in areas with a high content of fluoride in water have healthier teeth. It can be taken additionally via your diet or fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride topical agents work best with dentin tubule blocking agents like potassium, which is the principle behind desensitising toothpaste.
  • Desensitisation bonding: Bonding is the process where a composite resin is allowed to fuse or bond with your teeth. This is especially beneficial is you have developed sensitivity due to chips or cracks in your teeth. Bonding can help in sealing these cracks and acts as a protective covering which prevents enamel loss.
  • Gum graft: This is a small dental surgery used when the momentum is damaged due to receding gum line. Receding gums can be because of infection of previous surgery. In both the cases, a graft can be used to cover the exposed part and thus, prevent sensitivity. This small part of gum tissue can be taken from any other healthy part of your mouth.
  • Root canal treatment: If the infection has spread extensively in your mouth and has reached up to the root canal, no superficial procedure will be able to cure your sensitivity. It will mandate a root canal treatment followed by a crown placement to enable your teeth to function normally. It is by far considered the most effective treatment for sensitive teeth. However, it is the last resort and is an invasive procedure; therefore,  other treatments are tried before ultimately reaching the root canal treatment.


You should stay extremely careful with your teeth and strictly follow oral hygiene routine to prevent your teeth from these untoward occurrences. Use a good quality safety sealed toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste regularly, to keep your teeth safe and healthy. Visit your dentist for tips on total hygiene and learn the proper way of brushing and flossing. Eat healthily and maintain your oral health on track.


If you notice any symptom of tooth sensitivity such as intense pain on eating a particular food item, do not neglect it. Visit Conway House Dental practice and get yourself assessed. Our team would be happy to help you eat your favourite snacks without worries and get a healthy smile back! Call 01494526578 to book an appointment today!

We are a friendly team of dentists, hygienists and receptionists who work together to ensure that you receive the best treatment you require.

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