What is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is a common name for dentin hypersensitivity or root sensitivity. If hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks, or breathing in cold air, makes your teeth or a tooth sensitive or painful then you have sensitive teeth.

Is Tooth Sensitivity Common?

Tooth sensitivity is very common and it has been estimated that approximately half  the population experiences tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity can come and go over time.

Why does Tooth Sensitivity (Dentin Hypersensitivity) Happen?

Under normal conditions, the underlying dentin of the tooth (the layer that immediately surrounds the nerve) is covered by the enamel in the tooth crown, and the gums that surround the tooth.

Exposure of the dentin can occur due to a number of factors. Some of the more common reasons are:

  • Gum recession due to age or improper tooth brushing
  • Acidic beverages (such as soda) that cause enamel erosion and dentin exposure
  • Tooth grinding – this may actually cause most or all of the teeth to feel sensitive
  • Brushing with a very abrasive toothpaste, brushing incorrectly and/or brushing more than three times a day could result in a loss of enamel
  • Gum disease, which can result in gum recession
  • A chipped or fractured tooth may expose the dentin
What Makes Exposed Dentin Painful?

Dentin contains thousands of tiny channels which run from the surface, through the dentin to the nerve center of the tooth — the pulp. The channels contain fluid and after eating or drinking hot or cold foods, the fluid in these tiny channels moves and irritates the nerves in the tooth, causing pain.

Can I Prevent Tooth Sensitivity?

You can reduce your chances of getting tooth sensitivity by

  1. Keeping your mouth as healthy as possible with good oral hygiene to help prevent receding gums and periodontal disease.Brushing and flossing properly as recommended by your dentist and using a low abrasion toothpaste can help reduce the chance that you will have tooth
  2. A diet that is not acidic also helps prevent tooth sensitivity.
  3. Ignoring your sensitive teeth can lead to other oral health problems, especially if the pain causes you to brush poorly making you vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease.
What Can I Do if I Have Sensitive Teeth?

If the sensitivity is due to a cavity, a restoration can be placed.

If gum disease is the cause, the dental professional can perform a thorough cleaning of the area.

However, if the cause is from dentin being exposed, then there are a number of professional and at home treatments that can be used to reduce the sensitivity.

These can include:

At Home:

  1. Using a very soft bristle tooth brush.
  2. Brushing correctly to help prevent abrasion of the enamel and recession of the gums.
  3. Using a toothpaste specially formulated to help reduce sensitivity.

In Office Procedures:

  1. Apply a fluoride varnish on the sensitive areas to help strengthen the tooth.
  2. Place a dental restoration to build up the areas that have lost enamel.