How to Deal with Sensitive Teeth: Causes and Treatments

Do you experience a sharp pain in your teeth when you eat or drink something cold, hot, sweet, or acidic? If so, you might have sensitive teeth. Sensitive teeth can be a result of various dental problems, including tooth decay, gum disease, worn enamel, and cracked teeth. Even normal brushing and flossing can cause discomfort in some people with sensitive teeth.

So, what causes sensitive teeth and how do you treat them? Sensitive teeth happen when the dentin layer underneath the enamel is exposed, allowing hot, cold, acidic, or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside your tooth. The good news is that there are several ways you can prevent and manage tooth sensitivity, including using desensitizing toothpaste, practicing good oral hygiene, avoiding acidic foods and drinks, and possibly undergoing certain dental procedures to repair or protect your teeth.

Bruxism and Sensitive Teeth

If you often wake up with a sore jaw or notice that your teeth look worn down, you may be experiencing a common condition called bruxism. This condition involves grinding or clenching your teeth, often during sleep or times of stress. But did you know that bruxism can also contribute to tooth sensitivity?

When you grind your teeth, you create microscopic cracks in the enamel, the hard, outer layer of your teeth. These cracks can expose the underlying dentin, which contains microscopic tubules that lead to the nerve of the tooth. When hot, cold, sweet, or acidic substances come into contact with the exposed dentin, you may experience pain or sensitivity.

If you suspect that bruxism is causing your tooth sensitivity, there are a few treatment options available. Your dentist may recommend a custom-fitted mouthguard to protect your teeth from further damage during sleep. Additionally, practicing stress-management techniques such as exercise, meditation, or relaxation exercises can help reduce teeth grinding caused by stress.

Overbrushing and Sensitive Teeth

Believe it or not, it is possible to brush too much! Overbrushing and using overly aggressive techniques can actually cause damage to your teeth and gums over time, leading to sensitivity.

Specifically, overbrushing can cause your gums to recede, exposing the sensitive roots of your teeth. Additionally, using a toothbrush with bristles that are too firm can wear away your tooth enamel and cause sensitivity.

To prevent overbrushing and protect your teeth from sensitivity, it is essential to use proper brushing techniques. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, and brush your teeth gently in circular motions for at least two minutes twice per day. Avoid pressing too hard or using back-and-forth motions, which can cause gum damage.

Your dentist can also recommend products to help protect your teeth from sensitivity, such as desensitizing toothpaste or fluoride treatments. Additionally, if your gums have already begun to recede, your dentist may recommend a gum graft to repair the damaged tissue and protect the sensitive roots of your teeth.

Receding Gums and Tooth Sensitivity

If you have noticed that your teeth are more sensitive than usual, it could be due to receding gums. Gum recession is a common problem that occurs when the gum tissue around the teeth wears away, exposing the tooth roots. This can cause sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, as well as sweet and acidic foods and drinks. The exposed tooth roots are much more vulnerable to sensitivity because they lack the protective enamel layer that covers the crown of the tooth.

To prevent and treat receding gums, it is essential to maintain good oral hygiene practices. Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily can help remove plaque buildup that can lead to gum disease. Using an alcohol-free mouthwash can also help kill harmful bacteria and freshen breath.

If your gums have already started to recede, your dentist may recommend procedures such as gum grafting, which involves taking tissue from another area of your mouth or using donor tissue to cover the exposed roots. This can help reduce sensitivity and prevent further gum recession. In some cases, your dentist may also recommend desensitizing toothpaste or fluoride treatments to help strengthen and protect your teeth.

Teeth Whitening and Sensitivity

Teeth whitening treatments have become increasingly popular in recent years, but they can also cause temporary sensitivity. The bleaching agents used in whitening treatments penetrate the enamel and can irritate the nerves inside the teeth, causing discomfort and sensitivity.

To minimize discomfort before, during and after teeth whitening treatments, there are a few things you can do. First, it may be helpful to use a desensitizing toothpaste for a few weeks before your treatment to help prepare your teeth. During the treatment, your dentist may also apply a desensitizing gel to your teeth to help reduce sensitivity. After treatment, avoid hot and cold foods and drinks for a few days and use a straw when drinking cold beverages.

If your sensitivity persists or worsens, it is important to speak to your dentist. They may recommend alternative treatments, such as bonding or veneers, that do not cause as much sensitivity.

Ignoring Sensitive Teeth: The Consequences

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, it is important not to ignore it. Ignoring sensitive teeth can lead to worsening pain and discomfort, as well as various oral health problems.

Potential Consequences

One of the most common consequences of ignoring tooth sensitivity is tooth decay. Tooth sensitivity can make it difficult to brush and floss properly, which can lead to plaque buildup and cavities. As tooth decay worsens, it can cause increased sensitivity and pain.

Another consequence of ignoring sensitive teeth is gum disease. Sensitive teeth can make it difficult to maintain proper oral hygiene, which can lead to the development of gum disease. Gum disease not only causes discomfort but can also lead to tooth loss if left untreated.

Ignoring sensitive teeth can also lead to tooth loss. As sensitivity worsens, it can lead to the deterioration of the tooth’s structure. This can cause the tooth to crack or break, which can result in the need for extraction.

Treatment Options for Sensitive Teeth

Desensitizing Toothpaste

One of the most common and effective ways to treat sensitive teeth is through the use of desensitizing toothpaste. These toothpaste formulations can help to block the sensitivity of the tooth and provide relief. It is important to use desensitizing toothpaste regularly to see the best results.

Fluoride Treatments

Fluoride treatments are another option for treating sensitive teeth. They work by strengthening the tooth and making it more resistant to sensitivity. Your dentist can provide fluoride treatments in-office or can prescribe a fluoride gel or rinse for at-home use.


If your sensitivity is caused by tooth decay or damage, your dentist may recommend fillings. Fillings can help to repair the damage and provide relief from sensitivity.

Root Canal Treatment

In severe cases, root canal treatment may be necessary to treat sensitive teeth. This treatment involves removing the damaged or infected tissue within the tooth and filling it with a dental material. Root canal treatment can be highly effective in eliminating tooth sensitivity.

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent further damage and discomfort. Talk to your dentist about the best treatment options for your specific needs.

Preventing Sensitive Teeth: Tips for Good Oral Health

Preventing sensitive teeth is possible through good oral health practices. By taking care of your teeth and gums, you can prevent enamel wear and gum recession, which are the main causes of tooth sensitivity. Here are some practical tips:

Proper Brushing and Flossing Techniques

Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Use gentle circular motions to clean the teeth and avoid aggressive scrubbing, as it can wear down the enamel. Floss at least once a day to remove plaque and food particles between the teeth and along the gum line. Use a gentle back-and-forth motion and curve the floss around each tooth.

Regular Dental Checkups

Visit your dentist at least twice a year for routine cleanings and checkups. Your dentist can detect early signs of tooth decay, gum disease, or enamel wear and treat them before they become more severe. Also, your dentist can advise you on the best oral care practices and products for your specific needs.

Avoiding Acidic Foods

Foods and drinks that are high in acid can erode the enamel and expose the dentin, leading to sensitivity. Avoid or limit intake of citrus fruits, tomatoes, vinegar, soda, and sports drinks. If you consume them, rinse your mouth with water afterward and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing to avoid further enamel wear.

Home Remedies for Sensitive Teeth

If you experience occasional tooth sensitivity, you may try some natural remedies to alleviate it. Keep in mind that these remedies should not replace professional dental care, and you should consult your dentist before trying anything new. Here are some home remedies that are recommended by dentists:

Saltwater Rinses

Mix half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and rinse your mouth for 30 seconds. Saltwater can reduce inflammation and kill bacteria that cause sensitivity. However, don’t swallow the solution, as it can cause nausea and dehydration.

Clove Oil

Dab a small amount of clove oil on a cotton ball and apply it to the sensitive area. Clove oil contains eugenol, a natural anesthetic that can numb the nerve endings and reduce pain. However, use it sparingly, as overuse can irritate the gums and cause burning sensations.

Desensitizing Toothpaste

Use a toothpaste that is specifically formulated for sensitive teeth. These toothpastes contain ingredients such as potassium nitrate, strontium chloride, or arginine that can block the sensory nerves and reduce sensitivity over time. However, it may take several weeks to notice an improvement, so be patient and consistent.

By following these tips and remedies, you can prevent or alleviate tooth sensitivity and improve your oral health. Remember to consult your dentist if you have persistent pain or other symptoms, as they may indicate a more serious condition.

Wrap-Up: Understanding Sensitive Teeth and Managing the Pain

Congratulations! You have gained a clear understanding of what causes sensitive teeth and simple ways to manage the pain. From avoiding acidic foods and aggressive brushing techniques to adopting a proper oral care routine, you can take control of your dental health and enjoy that ice cream again.

Remember, it’s crucial to consult your dentist if you have severe or persistent tooth sensitivity as it may indicate an underlying dental problem. With the right care, you can alleviate tooth sensitivity and preserve your beautiful smile for years to come!

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