Sensitive Teeth: Common Causes and Available Treatments

Do hot or cold drinks bother your teeth? Do you notice that sweet or acidic foods cause tooth pain? Do you experience tooth sensitivity when you simply breathe in cold air?

In order to properly treat hypersensitivity, it’s important to get to its root cause. Just as there are many considerations in overall health conditions, there is not one blanket answer for dental hypersensitivity—each individual has their own set of concerns and causes that should be specifically addressed with your provider.

Common Causes of Sensitivity 

Here’s a list of common causes of sensitivity:

  • Poor oral hygiene. Tarter and plaque build up on teeth, eating away the jaw bone and making your gums pull back.
  • Aggressive brushing or using abrasive toothpastes. Choose a toothbrush with soft or extra-soft bristles, and use non-whitening toothpastes if you’re experiencing sensitivity.
  • Teeth grinding or buxism.
  • Tooth decay.
  • Tooth fractures or worn fillings.
  • Gum recession. Normally, gums cover the root of a tooth, but when your gums recede, the root of the tooth is exposed, causing hypersensitivity. Gum recession is common, and it’s estimated that four out of five people suffer from this condition by age 65.
Steps to Alleviate Sensitivity

There are a few general steps you can take to alleviate sensitivity:

  • Use sensitive toothpaste. A desensitizing toothpaste does not have abrasive ingredients found in many toothpastes on the market. Look for one that is marked for sensitivity and is approved by the American Dental Association. By using a sensitive toothpaste that is ADA-accepted, you are assured that the ADA has evaluated the product for safety and effectiveness.
  • Avoid whitening products or active whitening treatment. Whitening products are safe and effective, but not advisable when experiencing tooth sensitivity.
  • Ask your dentist about fluoride treatment. In-office fluoride treatments can help to strengthen what enamel you do have on your teeth and lessen the negative effects of tooth sensitivity.
  • Dental fillings. Tooth-colored fillings can be placed at your gum line. These fillings then cover the exposed roots and can help protect against sensitivity.
  • Use a mouthguard. Sensitivity caused from teeth grinding or bruxism can be addressed by using a mouthguard.

Next time you are in the dental office, make sure to address your sensitivity concerns with your dental professionals. Working together, you and your dentist can make a customized plan to get you back to enjoying a cup of coffee, a bowl of ice cream or a fresh citrus fruit—without the uncomfortable sensitivity symptoms.

Mark Scallon, DDS


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