Managing Sensitive Teeth: Causes and Solutions

Sensitive teeth can make everyday activities like eating, drinking, and brushing painful and unpleasant. This common dental problem arises when the protective enamel on teeth wears down or when gum recession exposes the underlying dentin, leading to discomfort and sharp pain in response to stimuli such as cold, heat, or sweetness. Fortunately, understanding the causes and exploring a range of effective solutions can help those suffering from sensitive teeth manage their symptoms and improve their oral health. This guide will delve into the various factors that contribute to tooth sensitivity and offer practical advice on how to treat and prevent this discomforting condition.

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

lemon on tooth. enamel erosion concept

Sensitive teeth occur when the underlying layer of your teeth, known as dentin, becomes exposed. This typically happens due to the following reasons:

  • Enamel Wear: The tooth’s enamel can wear down from aggressive brushing, acidic beverages, and teeth grinding, exposing the dentin.
  • Gum Recession: Gum disease or hard brushing can cause the gums to recede, exposing the roots of the teeth which are not covered by enamel.
  • Tooth Decay: Cavities near the gum line can expose the dentin.
  • Cracked Teeth: These can become filled with bacteria from plaque and cause inflammation in the pulp of the tooth.
  • Teeth Whitening Products: Some people have sensitive teeth after using whitening products or professional treatments.

Symptoms of Sensitive Teeth

If you have sensitive teeth, you might experience a sharp pain when your teeth are exposed to:

  • Cold air
  • Hot drinks
  • Cold drinks or foods
  • Sweet or acidic foods and drinks
  • Cold water, especially during routine dental cleanings
  • Brushing or flossing teeth

Solutions for Sensitive Teeth

Managing tooth sensitivity involves both at-home care and professional treatments. Here are some effective strategies:

Desensitizing Toothpaste: 

These toothpastes contain compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve. It may take several applications to feel a significant improvement.

Fluoride Gel: 

A dentist can apply fluoride gel to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce the transmission of sensations.

Dental Restorations: 

Fillings, crowns, inlays, or bonding can be used to correct flaws or decay that may be contributing to sensitivity.

Surgical Gum Graft: 

If gum tissue has been lost from the root, this procedure can protect the root and reduce sensitivity.

Root Canal: 

If severe dental sensitivity does not respond to other treatments, a root canal may be necessary to treat the underlying problems in the dental pulp.

Preventive Measures

Preventing the onset of sensitivity is key. Here are some tips:

  • Use a Soft-Bristled Toothbrush: Prevent enamel wear and gum recession by using a soft-bristled brush and gentle brushing techniques.
  • Avoid Acidic Foods and Drinks: Limit the consumption of foods and drinks that can erode enamel, like sodas, citrus fruits, and wine.
  • Wear a Mouth Guard: If you grind your teeth, consider getting a mouth guard to protect your teeth from excessive wear.

When to See a Dentist

It’s important to consult a dentist if:

  • You experience tooth sensitivity for the first time.
  • Sensitivity persists even after using desensitizing toothpaste regularly.
  • You notice signs of gum disease like redness, bleeding, or receding gums.


In conclusion, managing sensitive teeth starts with understanding the underlying causes and implementing both preventive and therapeutic measures. Regular dental check-ups and proper oral hygiene can help you maintain a healthy, pain-free smile.

Dr. Snehlata Kulhari

Dr. Snehlata Kulhari completed her Bachelors of Dental Surgery (BDS) at Government Dental College in Punjab, India and her Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree at the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine in Boston. She has been practicing dentistry since 2011 and has founded Smile Mantra Family Dentistry to provide dental care and education to the community of Cary, NC. Dr. Kulhari stays up to date on the latest dental research and advancements in order to offer her patients exceptional dental care. 


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