5 Sep
Young man holding cup of hot tea and feeling pain from sensitive tooth.

What Causes Sensitive Teeth and How to Get Relief

Do you experience sharp, temporary pain in your teeth while eating, drinking, or brushing? If so, you might be dealing with sensitive teeth also known as dentinal hypersensitivity, a common dental issue that affects millions of people worldwide. This discomfort can be caused by several factors such as worn enamel or exposed tooth roots. But don't worry, there are solutions to help you find relief. In this blog post, we will answer several commonly asked questions about tooth sensitivity and how to manage it.

What is Dentinal Hypersensitivity?

Dentinal hypersensitivity is also known as tooth sensitivity. It is defined as a pain response from exposed dentin. These responses can be triggered by chemical, tactile, thermal, or osmotic stimuli.

Understanding Sensitive Teeth

This video explains tooth sensitivity, common causes and the importance of working closely with your dentist.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity can occur due to various reasons, including worn enamel, cavities, cracked teeth, receding gums, and gum disease. These factors can make your teeth react to hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods and drinks.

  1. Enamel erosion
    Enamel erosion occurs when the protective outer layer of your teeth, known as the enamel, becomes worn down or damaged. This can expose the underlying dentin, which contains tiny tubules that connect to the nerves of your teeth. When these tubules are exposed to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic substances, you may experience discomfort or pain.
  2. Tooth decay and cavities
    Tooth decay and cavities can also contribute to tooth sensitivity. When the protective layers of your teeth are compromised by decay, bacteria can penetrate the tooth and reach the nerves, causing sensitivity and pain.
  3. Cracked or chipped teeth
    Cracked or chipped teeth can expose the sensitive inner layers of the tooth, leading to tooth sensitivity. These dental injuries can occur due to various factors, such as trauma, biting on hard objects, or untreated tooth decay.
  4. Gum recession
    Gum recession happens when the gum tissue surrounding your teeth begins to pull back, exposing the delicate roots of your teeth. This can lead to increased sensitivity, as the roots do not have the same protective enamel cover as the rest of your teeth.
  5. Gingivitis and periodontal disease
    Gingivitis and periodontal disease are conditions that affect the gums and the underlying structures that support the teeth. When these tissues become inflamed or infected, they can cause tooth sensitivity, along with other symptoms such as bleeding gums and bad breath.

How can I figure out what is causing my tooth sensitivity?

Your dentist or hygienist are your best allies in identifying the root cause of your tooth sensitivity. Through check-ups and discussions about your dental history, we can pinpoint what is causing your discomfort and suggest appropriate treatment.

What are the treatment options to ease tooth sensitivity?

There are several effective ways to manage tooth sensitivity and help alleviate the discomfort:

  • Use Desensitizing Toothpaste: This is a popular first-line treatment for tooth sensitivity. These toothpastes are designed for sensitivity and contain compounds that help block the transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve. Your dentist or hygienist can recommend the right product for you. At Acton Smile Hub, we generally recommend Prevident Sensitive or MI Paste.
prevident sensitive
mi toothpaste
  • Fluoride Treatment: Applying fluoride to your sensitive areas strengthens your tooth enamel and reduces pain. Your dental hygienist may apply fluoride varnish or gel directly to the sensitive areas of your teeth. You might even get prescription fluoride for home use with custom trays or a fluoride-based rinse.
  • Dental Bonding: If your tooth sensitivity is caused by exposed dentin or enamel erosion, your dentist may recommend bonding. These procedures involve applying a tooth-colored resin material to the affected areas, covering the exposed dentin and helping to relieve sensitivity. You might need a bit of numbing for this procedure.
  • Gum graft surgery: In cases where gum recession is causing tooth sensitivity, gum graft surgery may be recommended to protect your exposed roots. The procedure involves taking gum tissue from another area of your mouth and attaching it to the affected area to cover the exposed tooth roots. This can significantly reduce sensitivity and discomfort.
Displeased young female in pain from tooth sensitivity.

Can laser root desensitization help treat sensitive teeth?

Yes! Laser root desensitization is an advanced option for quick relief. It focuses on sealing off tiny tubules in your tooth roots that connect to nerves. You can think of these as pores. By closing these tubules, the treatment blocks pain signals. The best part? This laser uses a beam of light to provide therapeutic and non-invasive treatment for tooth pain. It is often a gentle procedure that does not require numbing.

Is using a laser safe for root desensitization?

Absolutely! The radiation involved in generating laser light is nonionizing and does not produce the same effects attributed to X-radiation. In other words, it will not produce the same effects as x-rays, it's on a different spectrum. Light energy therapy is a non-invasive and non-toxic alternative to pharmaceuticals. It’s safe for lactating mothers, pregnant women, pediatrics and elderly. There are no contraindications.

In our office we use the Biolase infrared diode laser. This procedure is called desensitizing medicament. Ask your dentist or hygienist about this procedure at your next visit.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Tooth sensitivity might stem from worn enamel, exposed roots, cavities, or gum issues.
  • Trust your dentist or your hygienist to uncover the cause of your sensitivity.
  • Relief comes in various forms: desensitizing toothpaste, fluoride, bonding, and
    gum grafts.
  • Laser root desensitization is a modern dental solution that can bring rapid relief by sealing off nerve pathways.
  • Laser root desensitization is a safe and noninvasive treatment.

Remember, you are not alone in dealing with sensitive teeth. Your dental team is here to help you enjoy your favorite foods and activities without discomfort. Everyone's situation is unique, so working together with your dentist or hygienist will ensure you get the tailored care you deserve. Your smile's well-being is worth it!

Do you experience temporary pain in your teeth while drinking cold or hot drinks?

If you find yourself avoiding hot and cold drinks or foods because because you experience sharp pain, then your teeth may be sensitive. For more questions or advice on tooth sensitivity please give us a call or schedule a dental appointment online with one of our dental hygienists or Dr. Tufa. We are here to help!


Aleta S.

Aleta is a laser certified dental hygienist extraordinaire who loves helping her patients keep their teeth clean and healthy. She is passionate about educating and informing patients about latest dental hygiene advancements and being with them through every step of their journey to optimal oral health.