Why are my teeth sensitive?

Why are my teeth sensitive?

Ice cream? Hot coffee? You are not alone... These things can give you sensitivity.

This is a question I often get asked! There are generally quite a few reasons your teeth may be sensitive. Here are a few common offenders:


  1. Tooth decay. Holes in the teeth – otherwise known as tooth decay or dental caries can cause your tooth to be sensitive to hot and cold things, sometimes even sweet things. A dental x-ray will help your dentist to determine if you are suffering from tooth decay.
  2. Gum recession. If you have gum recession, or receeding gums, this can expose the roots of the teeth. The roots of the teeth are not protected by enamel therefore they can be sensitive to cold and even to touch. There are some products on the market that can help with this. Sensitive toothpastes can help to protect the root surfaces and help with sensitivity. Colgate Sensitive Pro Relief is what I usually recommend to my patients. Sensodyne and Oral B also offer a range of sensitive toothpastes.
  3. Tooth-brush abrasions. Sometimes if our tooth brush is too hard, or if our tooth brushing technique leads to overbrushing of a certain area, small abrasions can occur in the tooth along the gum-line, where the root may have become exposed. Over time with continued ‘overbrushing’ the tooth brush abrasions can become deeper and larger and encroach closer towards the nerve of the tooth. They can become sensitive to cold, hot and touch. Changing your toothbrush to a softer brush and changing your toothbrushing technique can help to stop the abrasions from getting worse, however the damage cannot be reversed. If you are suffering from a lot of sensitivity from the abrasions then small fillings can be placed into them to protect the tooth and stop the sensitivity.
  4. Diet high in acids. An acidic diet can lead to tooth sensitivity. Acidic foods and drinks, such as carbonated drinks, fruit juice, wine, citrus fruits, apple cider vinegar (to name a few), lower the pH inside your mouth making it an acidic environment. This acidity will strip off any protective layer that has formed on any exposed roots from a sensitive toothpaste and can they can also lead to demineralisation of tooth enamel. I would recommend swapping any sugary (including fruit juices!) or carbonated drinks to plain old water! If you consume lots of citrus fruits or other acidic foods, try not to keep snacking on them throughout the day as this will not allow your saliva to bring your mouth back up to a neutral pH. For example- consume the whole orange during one sitting rather than having multiple pieces of it throughout the day. Once you have finished eating the orange, rinse your mouth out with water or milk to try and bring your mouth pH back up to neutral as quickly as possible.
  5. Other! Yes, in dentistry, not everything is always a straight forward fix. There are multiple other reasons your teeth may be sensitive including a cracked tooth, clenching and grinding of the teeth, tooth wear. I would always recommend speaking to your dental professional to help to work out the nature of your sensitivity and to come up with an action plan on how to solve it.


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