Sensitive Teeth


By Sarah Leavitt, Medical Research EditorLast modified: October 05, 2011

Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth react to hot and cold, making it painful for patients to drink hot or iced drinks. As the pain of sensitive teeth increases even brushing teeth can become uncomfortable. Tooth sensitivity is not a single dental problem - it is the symptom of a number of dental problems. If teeth start to feel sensitive, visit a dentist as soon as possible to treat the underlying problem and to prevent the symptoms from worsening.


Causes of sensitive teeth

Sensitive teeth are most often caused by the tooth roots becoming exposed due to gum recession. The nerves of a tooth send pain signals to the brain. When the roots are exposed, the nerves are as well, so that any heat or cold will instantly cause discomfort. 


Tooth sensitivity also occurs when the tooth enamel (the outer coating of teeth) thins, exposing the inner layer of the tooth. 


The most common reasons for sensitive teeth are:

  • Gum disease - When the gums recede, the tooth root is exposed allowing objects to touch the tooth root.  
  • Excess brushing of teeth - When you brush teeth it is important not to push too hard against the tooth surface. Excessive brushing can damage the enamel causing teeth to become sensitive. *Learn how to brush teeth*
  • Teeth whitening - Repeated use of peroxide can damage tooth enamel, tining the protective layer that prevents the inner layer of tooth from exposure to elements. Take care when using home-bleaching kits and be sure to tell your dentist of any prior tooth whitening before undergoing a professional tooth whitening.
  • Bruxism - Grinding teeth causes damage to the tooth enamel. Over time, cracks in the enamel can become infected with bacteria build up and the tooth can become infected. To prevent tooth sensitivity, see a dentist for guidance on how to prevent night-time tooth grinding
  • Cavities - Tooth cavities cause pain as the tooth root and the nerves are exposed. 

Treatment for sensitive teeth

Sensitive teeth are treated by resolving the underlying dental problem causing the sensitivity. Dental filings and dental veneers can be used to cure toothache caused by cavities or worn enamel; Lumineers (a specific type of veneer) can act as an alternative to tooth whitening. The treatment for gum disease will vary depending on the severity of the gingivitis.


For more information, contact a local dentist




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This article was written by the medical research team at does not intend for any of the information on this site to be regarded as medical advice - it is meant as a starting point for understanding treatment details and options before contacting a registered, licensed doctor. We advise all patients to seek medical advice from a doctor.
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