June 20th, 2023, 9:00 AM

Tooth sensitivity is very common — so common that 1 out of 8 adults suffer from painful symptoms. There are many causes for the condition, but also many treatments available to address them. Determining proper treatment varies according to the specific cause and patient lifestyle.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

If you are suddenly affected by sensitive teeth, you'll start to notice that activities such as eating, drinking, or even brushing induce a short, sharp pain (especially with foods that are hot, cold, or sweet). Sensitive teeth are typically caused by either worn-down tooth enamel or roots that have been left exposed. In other cases, gum disease, cavities, worn fillings, and chipped or cracked teeth can be the source of the irritation. 

Let's discuss these causes in depth.

Aggressive brushing 

Brushing on its own doesn't necessarily guarantee healthy teeth; In fact, the style of how you brush has the greatest effect. If, for instance, you use a hard-bristled toothbrush and put too much pressure on your teeth, it can lead to damage over time. The enamel becomes worn down, leaving the dentin (the layer of tooth beneath your enamel) exposed. 

Brushing too harshly can also lead to what is known as gum recession when gum tissue begins to effectively pull away from the surface of your teeth. 


Do you have a habit of repeatedly grinding or clenching your teeth? If so, this might be the cause behind any pain you are experiencing from tooth sensitivity. As the friction from grinding continues, the enamel becomes subject to trauma, wearing down its protective outer layer. Once enough of the enamel is broken down, the dentin is left open to any food or drink you consume. 

Gum disease

Gum disease results from the build-up of plaque (a sticky layer of bacteria on the teeth). If left unchecked, plaque will continue to form until enough of it is present to irritate the gums. The resulting tissue inflammation will, in turn, cause a lot of sensitivity issues and different levels of soreness. 

The ligaments which would normally support the gums are lost in this process, leaving the root structure of your tooth fully exposed. This is precisely where the nerves of your teeth are located, with exposure contributing to feelings of discomfort and pain.

Wear and tear 

Tooth decay, such as a cavity, is infamous for causing tooth sensitivity. Sensitivity builds in intensity as bacteria eats away at the enamel layer. Nerves become exposed, and the decay can eventually reach the pulp (the inner tissue in the center of the tooth). If the cavity reaches the final stages of decay, you may require either a partial or full tooth replacement.

Acidic Foods 

Certain foods have a higher concentration of acidic compounds than others. Foods such as citrus fruits, pickles, tomatoes, and tea all contain high levels of acid. When you consume a lot of these foods, you contribute to the gradual erosion of your enamel. The dentin is forced into an acidic environment, which leads to developing tooth sensitivity. 

Rather than give up these foods entirely, you might consider enjoying them in greater moderation. Try using a straw for acidic drinks to limit contact with the surface of your teeth, if possible. It's also a good idea to drink plenty of water between snacks and meals to balance the pH of your mouth. 

Tooth Sensitivity Treatment 

Treatment for tooth sensitivity depends on the exact cause of the discomfort. There are several tips to keep in mind when planning an effective oral hygiene routine. For example, you might consider implementing a desensitizing toothpaste, of which there are many available on the market. Be sure to follow all proper brushing and flossing techniques, preferably with a soft-bristled toothbrush to reduce erosion. 

Additionally, utilizing fluoridated dental care products can effectively decrease tooth sensitivity. Fluoride comes in many forms, from toothpaste to mouthwash to oral gels. Daily use has the strongest effect, though it is best to consult your dentist for advice on which product is the best fit for your teeth. Those with a habit of teeth grinding also have the option of wearing a mouth guard during the night. 

Tooth sensitivity can go away on its own, but this is normally in situations where recent dental procedures are involved (i.e., dental fillings or root canals). If your sensitivity continues to increase after home treatments, schedule an appointment with your local dentist as soon as possible to determine the culprit. 

In severe cases, he or she may recommend a dental procedure in the office, such as dental bonding, fluoride coatings, or dentin sealers — all of which are applied to the root surface of the teeth to lessen the impact of sensitivity. 

Toughen Your Teeth at Kneib Dentistry!

Get lasting protection for your teeth with expert dental care. Make an appointment with Kneib Dentistry today! 

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