What causes tooth sensitivity

Share this article

Our dental staff at Cosmetic & Family Dentistry of Las Colinas has helped many people understand why their tooth feels sensitive to touch, brush, or when exposed to hot or cold drinks and food. Initially, when your tooth feels sensitive, the first instinct is to avoid the culprit. Now, this is fine, because sometimes it could just be one thing because it is common for hot and cold foods to trigger tooth sensitivity. However, if you have pain along with other symptoms such as loose teeth, swollen gums or pain while chewing, then you may have extremely sensitive teeth caused by another dental issue. At this point, it is a good idea to contact your dentist.

According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), about 40 million Americans suffer from teeth sensitivity. So, the question arose, what is hypersensitive of your teeth? In the inside of your tooth is a material called dentin that contains microscopic tubules filled with nerve endings. The hard-outer layer of the tooth, the enamel, protects the dentin. Dentin itself extends down into the root of your tooth, passing your gum line, where it is protected by cementum. The American Dental Association (ADA) has defined dentin hypersensitivity as nerve irritation when dentin loses its protected covering of enamel or cementum. This, in turn, exposes the nerve endings to hot, cold, acidic, or sticky foods.

Nowadays when you go to the store there is a whole section dedicated to toothbrushes, toothpastes, floss, etc. There are many brands and types of oral care specifically designed to combat tooth sensitivity. Aside from avoiding the culprit, it is not a bad idea to try a different tooth care regimen at home. Afterwards, when you see your dentist, having a conversation with your dentist can possibly lead to a more permanent relief. Just as you would describe your symptoms to a medical doctor, describe your symptoms to your dentist. When your dentist has a better idea of what, how, and when you feel the pain, he or she can best help you identify the root cause – no pun intended.

During the dental visit, some common causes of tooth sensitivity will be discussed, like the following:

  1. Worn tooth enamel due to a hard toothbrush and using a hard grip while brushing aggressively.
  2. Tooth erosion due to highly acidic foods and beverages, i.e. coffee and sodas.
  3. Tooth decay, worn leaky fillings, or chipped teeth that expose the dentin of your tooth.
  4. Gum recession – root surface exposed.
  5. Grinding your teeth at night – very common problem.

After the potential causes are discussed, your dentist may do a full dental exam to narrow down the reason for your discomfort. If the underlying issue is a complex dental problem, then your treatment plan may vary. Some treatment options will include a crown, inlay or bonding, and if the gums are involved, this may be indicative of a chronic or advanced stage disease. There is nothing to be alarmed about, there is a solution to your discomfort. If your gum line has been compromised and your root is exposed, a surgical procedure can be performed to relieve your pain.


If you are looking for a dental cleaning in the Irving or DFW area and have any concerns or questions, or if you want to schedule an appointment, contact us today.