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Tooth Sensitivity. What is it and how do I prevent and/or treat it?

What is tooth sensitivity?

Also known as dentin hypersensitivity, it is a condition whereby the teeth are painfully affected by high or low temperatures or certain types of food.

As a result, eating hot or cold food, or foods that are especially sweet or sour, or even breathing hot or cold air, can cause pain in the teeth ranging from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the problem.


Tooth sensitivity happens when poor oral hygiene results in the dental roots or underlying surface of the teeth, called the dentin, becoming exposed due to thinning enamel or receding gums.

Gum disease (which carries many health issues on its own), causes the gums to recede and expose sensitive areas of the teeth. In addition, tooth decay near the gum line causes sensitivity for the same reasons, and the buildup of plaque near the roots can also cause this condition.

Sometimes having dental work done such as crowns, fillings, root canals and whitening can make your teeth temporarily sensitive, but your dentist will let you know, and these symptoms usually disappear in a matter of weeks.

And finally, highly acidic foods such as citrus fruits or tomatoes, and drinks such as citrus juices, carbonated soft drinks, tea or wine can degrade enamel if consumed in excessive quantities, thereby causing sensitivity.

If your problem is caused by poor oral hygiene, there are a number of risks associated with that, including bacterial infections called periodontitis, tooth loss and more.

At the very least, increasing dentin hypersensitivity can cause severe discomfort, to the point where certain foods such as ice cream or soups, are no longer enjoyable at all. Failure to address the causes of the condition can lead to the necessity for major, and often unpleasant, dental procedures such as root canals.

Risk Factors

There is a wide range of factors that can cause tooth sensitivity, or the conditions that lead to sensitivity. Worn enamel caused by brushing too hard or grinding of the teeth is a common cause. Chipped or broken teeth may also fill with bacteria in the damaged areas, causing sensitivity.

Excessive use of tooth-whitening products, specifically whitening gels, can sometimes damage enamel if used for excessively long periods, so NEVER leave whitening products on your teeth for longer than directed by the instructions that come with the product. Having teeth professionally whitened by a dentist is always the safest option.

Age is also a significant factor, as it is highly common for people aged between 25 and 30 years of age to experience increased sensitivity in their teeth.


First and foremost, the most important method of preventing tooth sensitivity, along with most other dental conditions, is proper oral hygiene. Floss and brush thoroughly at least twice daily. However, it is also important not to let your enthusiasm for thorough brushing cause you to brush too firmly. If your teeth are sensitive, use a soft-bristled toothbrush, and avoid scrubbing too harshly.

A fluoride and antiseptic mouthwash can also help. In addition to reducing bacteria and improving oral hygiene, the fluoride will help to strengthen the enamel. In addition, fluoridated toothpaste for sensitive teeth will help to strengthen the enamel on your teeth. It might take several brushes with the toothpaste before the effects begin to be noticed.

Cut down on acidic food and drink, and if you do consume acidic drinks, use a straw to limit the teeth’s exposure to the liquids.

If you have a problem with grinding your teeth, which some people are even known to have in their sleep, a dentist will probably recommend a mouth guard to protect your enamel from being worn down.


If your sensitivity is caused by gum disease, you should visit your dentist for a professional cleaning. However, if the problem is caused by something more serious, your dentist may advise further treatment.

If roots are exposed, it might be necessary to apply a bonding resin to the sensitive root areas. If the gums have receded too much, a surgical gum graft may be necessary, whereby gum tissue is taken from another part of your mouth and applied to the exposed area.

Sometimes, a root canal is the required course of action. This is where the softer pulp on the inside of the tooth has become infected, and it is necessary to remove it and replace it with a synthetic material and restore the tooth with a crown or filling. This is an unpleasant, but very common procedure that is considered to be the most effective in permanently restoring a tooth and relieving sensitivity.


While tooth sensitivity is an extremely common condition, it is almost always a symptom of an underlying problem that shouldn’t be ignored. If caught early, professional cleaning and extra care should solve the problem. If the problem is allowed to get worse, a more complicated procedure is inevitable. Always consult your dentist if you have any concerns.

*The information provided in this article is not meant to be dental advice of any kind and was composed from research of information provided on the world wide web. Always consult your dentist for dental advice.

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