The Root of the Problem: 5 Things to Know About Tooth Sensitivity

Find the cause of your tooth sensitivity.

Just how serious is having sensitive teeth?

Tooth sensitivity is prevalent among adults. Studies estimate that up to 33.5% of people live with tooth sensitivity and the condition is most common in individuals between the ages of 20 and 40. So if you find yourself wincing as you indulge in ice cream or drink your morning cup of joe, know that you’re not alone.

Here are five things you should know about tooth sensitivity.

1. What is tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is a type of pain experienced when teeth are exposed to hot or cold temperatures. Sometimes, the tooth pain is mild and lasts only a few minutes, but other times you may suffer from severe aches that last several hours. 

Tooth sensitivity can be a precursor for more extensive dental problems, so it’s essential to seek help from a dentist early if you experience issues.

2. Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

There are multiple reasons you may experience teeth sensitivity. Here are a few of the most common.

Brushing Too Hard

Brushing your teeth at least twice daily is crucial, but you don’t want to use too much force. Brushing too hard can wear down the enamel on your teeth, eventually exposing the dentin. The dentin contains tiny pores that lead directly into the tooth nerves, so any food or drink can potentially irritate them and lead to tooth pain.

Gum Recession

Not only are receding gums unattractive but they can also lead to tooth sensitivity. Gum recession can occur for various reasons, some of which are treatable if you take the proper steps. If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity and notice your gums receding, see a dentist for help.

Gum Disease

Severe gum disease like periodontitis can cause the gums to recede from the teeth, eventually exposing the roots. Once the roots are exposed, you’ll need dental treatment to stop tooth sensitivity and prevent the gums from receding further. Periodontitis is serious and can cause further issues, like loosening of the teeth.

Cracked Teeth

It’s easy to crack a tooth accidentally, especially if you chew on hard items like ice or candy. If the crack doesn’t cause any immediate problems, you might want to ignore the issue, but a crack in your tooth won’t go away—it will only worsen. Eventually, the crack may expose the pulp of the tooth, which contains nerves, and lead to tooth pain and sensitivity.


Bruxism occurs when you clench or grind your teeth involuntarily. Some people naturally grind their teeth at night, and this wears down tooth enamel over time. If you think you suffer from bruxism, you may need to wear a nightguard to protect your teeth from the effects of grinding.

Acidic Foods

If you have a love for soda, citrus fruits, or processed meats like ham or salami, you’re not doing your teeth any favors. Acidic food and drinks are known to wear down teeth enamel and will eventually cause tooth sensitivity. 

If you don’t want to give up your favorites, try using a straw when drinking soda and making it a habit to gently brush your teeth 30 minutes after eating acidic foods.

3. Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity

The most prevalent symptom of tooth sensitivity is pain. Typically, the pain will flare up whenever you do any of the following:

  • Drink a hot beverage, like coffee or tea
  • Eat hot or cold foods
  • Drink a cold beverage, especially with ice
  • Use teeth whitening products
  • Eat sweet foods like candy or ice cream
  • Use cold water to brush your teeth
  • Floss around the impacted tooth
  • Use a mouth rinse 

If you notice recurring tooth sensitivity, seek a dentist’s assistance.

4. Treatment Options

There are various treatment options available for teeth sensitivity. 

Someone with mild tooth sensitivity will benefit from desensitizing toothpaste, which you can buy over the counter. Typically, the pain will subside after using the toothpaste a few times.

Fluoride can also be beneficial. Fluoride helps strengthen the enamel of the teeth, protecting it from further wear. A dentist can provide you with prescription fluoride you can use at home.

More advanced treatment options include surgical gum grafts and root canals. If cavities cause tooth sensitivity, the root canal will remove the cavity and the tooth’s pulp that connects to the nerves.

5. Preventing Tooth Sensitivity

You can prevent tooth sensitivity by brushing your teeth twice a day. If you grind your teeth, using a nightguard is important, especially when sleeping. Try to stay away from acidic food and drinks that can wear away the tooth enamel. If you can’t avoid them altogether, drink water after consuming them.

Regular trips to the dentist can help prevent tooth sensitivity.

Usually, major dental problems don’t pop up spontaneously. They develop over time when you don’t care for your teeth properly. Make sure to visit your dentist every six months for a cleaning and dental evaluation. They’ll check your teeth for any cavities or sensitivity so you can take care of the issue immediately. Are you experiencing tooth sensitivity? Schedule an appointment with Compass Dental Group. We’ll help you get to the “root” of the problem!