Tooth Sensitivity: A Common Yet Troublesome Problem Faced By Many

Tooth sensitivity is a common dental problem but most people ignore it and suffer serious consequences.

Chanchal Sengar
Written by: Chanchal SengarUpdated at: Oct 25, 2022 15:17 IST
Tooth Sensitivity: A Common Yet Troublesome Problem Faced By Many

Is the taste of your favourite ice cream sometimes painful? Does brushing or flossing make you wince occasionally? You might be suffering from a common problem called “Dentin hypersensitivity” or “tooth sensitivity”. Some of the many causes include tooth decay,  cracked tooth, worn tooth enamel, worn fillings, and tooth roots that are exposed as a result of aggressive brushing, gum recession, and periodontal (gum) disease. In this article, you can understand the reasons for tooth sensitivity, its various treatment options, and the measures to prevent sensitivity as told by Dr. Neetha Goverdhan Shenoy, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Conservative Dentistry and Endodontics, Manipal College of Dental Sciences, Manipal.

Tooth sensitivity is the most commonly reported dental issue, it is more common in people aged between 20 and 40. Although it can also affect people in their early teens. According to some studies, it is discovered that women are more likely to be affected by tooth sensitivity than men. If you have sensitive teeth, certain activities can cause sharp shooting pain in your teeth, such as brushing, eating, and drinking hot or cold food. It can range from mild tinge to more severe discomfort that can continue for several hours, but the causes might differ.

What causes sensitive teeth?

You might feel triggering pain if you feel hot, cold, or acidic inside your tooth. Here are some common causes that will help you detect hypersensitivity:

  • 1. Toothbrush abrasion: Brushing your teeth too hard can cause enamel reduction. The teeth meet the gums, which leads to tooth sensitivity when exposed to hot or cold food substances.
  • 2. Dental erosion: Enamel is worn out by the attacks of acid from acidic food and drinks exposing the dentin causing tooth sensitivity.
  • 3. Gum disease: A build-up of plaque or tartar can cause the gum to recede down the tooth and even destroy the bony support of the tooth.
  • 4. Tooth grinding: Clenching and grinding habits cause the enamel of the teeth to be worn away, making the teeth sensitive. It is majorly experienced by children and teenagers, during sleep.
  • 5. A cracked tooth or filling: a cracked tooth or a broken filling too can cause sensitivity.
Tooth Sensitivity causes treatment

How are sensitive teeth diagnosed?

Sometimes your dentist may take X-rays to detect cavities or other abnormalities. There are different diagnostic methods, such as the usage of a jet of air, or water spray that elicits sensitivity of the suspect tooth. If you experience tooth sensitivity, you must visit your dentist. The dentist checks the health of the teeth and looks for potential problems like cavities, loose fillings, or recessed gums that could be causing the sensitivity.

How is tooth sensitivity treated?

If you have sensitive teeth, depending on the circumstances, your dentist might recommend the following treatment modalities:

  • Desensitising agents: Your dentist might prescribe you desensitising toothpaste or mouth rinse. There are a variety of products available to treat tooth sensitivity. Always consult with your dentist about which product might work best for you and for how long you should be using them as their effectivity might depend on these factors. After several applications, desensitising toothpaste blocks pain associated with sensitive teeth.
  • Fluoride application: Your dentists may treat the affected teeth with special ‘desensitising' products like fluoride gels, which will help you relieve the symptoms. These are painted onto the teeth at regular appointments one or two weeks apart, to build up some protection.
  • Filling: If there is exposed dentin around the neck of the tooth, then the dentist may seal or fill the area where the tooth meets the gum to cover the exposed dentine.
  • Root Canal Treatment (RCT): If your teeth are severely sensitive and other treatments aren’t effective, then your dentist might recommend a root canal treatment. It is a procedure used to treat problems associated with the tooth's soft core (dental pulp).
  • Surgical gum graft: If your tooth root has lost gum tissue, your dentist may suggest a gum graft surgery. The dentist will take a small amount of tissue from the patient’s donor site and use that tissue to cover up the area where the gums have receded.  Exposed roots will be protected and sensitivity will be reduced.
  • Correction of etiological factors: It is important to correct the underlying potential problems, such as faulty tooth brushing, correction of problems with dentition, and restriction of the consumption of highly acidic foods and beverages to stop dentinal hypersensitivity.
  • Treating underlying medical conditions: Patients with diseases such as Anorexia, Bulimia, GERD, etc develop sensitive teeth due to acid reflux. Hence consultation with a physician is required to treat such conditions.

Tooth Sensitivity treatment

Some tips to prevent tooth sensitivity:

  • 1. You can brush your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste
  • 2. Brushing your teeth gently
  • 3. Flossing your teeth regularly.
  • 4. Limiting the consumption of sugary and acidic foods and beverages.
  • 5. Limit contact with acidic food such as citrus fruits, carbonated drinks, etc
  • 6. Regular dental visits.

Did you know?

A recent study shows that sports drinks are connected to tooth sensitivity. People use sports drinks for stamina, but due to their acidic content, they can cause erosive tooth wear and are detrimental to oral health.

Hence, try preventing it, use them in moderation, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth, and use dentist-prescribed toothpaste.


Tooth sensitivity is treatable. Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing tooth sensitivity. If you have a sensitive tooth, always visit your nearest dentist, you are advised to avoid self-medication.

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