What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

Do cold or hot food and drinks give you pain? Does it hurt badly when you brush or floss your teeth? If you say yes to these questions, you have sensitive teeth. It is an increasingly common issue, and there are a number of factors that contribute to sensitivitity.

As a rule, teeth become sensitive when nerve endings are exposed to outer influences. The crown of a tooth is covered by a layer of enamel. Tooth roots, which are hidden below the gum line, are covered by a layer of cementum, which is less dense than the enamel. Beneath the enamel and cementum, there is dentin – a sponge-like tissue filled with nerves. Loss of enamel and cementum results in exposed dentin and, consequently, nerve endings, and makes your teeth sensitive to hot, cold, and sticky foods.

Why it happens

The most common causes of increased dental sensitivity are:

  • Cavities and decay
  • Fractures
  • Worn enamel
  • Poor quality and worn-down fillings
  • Gum recession and exposed roots
  • Post-treatment sensitivity

Tooth decay results from lack of proper care and failure to visit a dentist on a regular basis. As a cavity increases, dentin becomes exposed and reachable for cold and hot food. This can be very painful.

Enamel wears down due to hard brushing, both in terms of effort applied and toothbrush type. Also, enamel may erode due to eating and drinking highly acidic foods and beverages. Grinding teeth is another common cause of this problem. 

Teeth may grow sensitive right after dental care or bleaching. In most cases, it is temporary and goes away pretty soon.

What to do

Given the variety of factors influencing the degree of sensitivity, it takes a close professional examination to determine the cause. If you suddenly find eating and drinking some types of food and liquids painful, go to a dentist immediately. Tell the dentist how severe the pain is and how long ago it started. Professionals need this information, as it provides a glimpse on the issue and helps them identify it. Please, do not go for self-treatment or fully rely on what you browse!

Based on the causes, there are different ways to treat the problem: fixing/replacing a filling, fixing the crown, bonding, strengthening the enamel with fluoride gel, applying gum grafts to replace the lost tissue, or filling in the root canal. The latter is the most radical method and should be applied only if other methods have failed. These are in-office ways of treatment.

Also, there are means, which you can use at home, such as desensitizing toothpaste. It contains agents that dull the nerve endings and reduce pain. 


Although there are advanced and quite effective methods of treatment, prevention appears to be the best one. There are a few simple things you can do to nip it in the bud:

  • Visit a dentist regularly
  • Cut down on acidic foods
  • Do not use hard-bristled toothbrushes and do not push too hard when brushing your teeth
  • Use a mouth guard, especially at night time. Many people grind teeth during sleep without even realizing.

If you have sensitive teeth bothering you, then call us at 905-876-0200 to schedule an appointment.

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