What Causes Sensitive Teeth

Tooth sensitivity is caused when the “dentin” which is the soft part of the tooth, is exposed. Dentin has small channels that house the nerve endings and is just under the enamel layer of the tooth. These nerve endings are filled with fluids.  The movement of this fluid is what creates the discomfort when eating foods or liquids that are sugary, hot or cold. It will trigger that certain twinge that feels feel like a short, sharp pain. Tooth sensitivity is not a disease, it is a condition referred to by your dentist as “Dentin hypersensitivity”. There are various reasons this can occur.

  • Teeth Grinding – If you grind your teeth when you sleep or clinch your teeth during the day, it can wear down the enamel and exposing the dentin layer of the tooth.
  • Gingival Recession – If you have any type of gum disease, gingivitis or periodontal disease, it can cause your gum tissue to become swollen and inflamed which can cause the dentin to be exposed.
  • Excessive and Aggressive Brushing – Believe it or not, excessive brushing or brushing with a tooth brush that has hard bristles or brushing too vigorously can wear down the tooth enamel that protects the dentin.
  • Tooth Decay – If you experience any tooth decay near the gum line, it will expose the dentin resulting in the uncomfortable feeling of tooth sensitivity.
  • Cracked Teeth – If you have a cracked on chipped tooth, plaque can fill in the area causing inflammation that will be very sensitive.
  • Recent studies conducted show teeth-whitening treatments can penetrate the enamel. The most common teeth-whitening ingredients are carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide which is known to cause the softening of the enamel.

Many things can cause the “twinges” that is the result of the exposure of the dentin. The most common causes are food and drinks that are too hot or too cold, especially noticeable when you are rinsing while brushing your teeth. You will also notice that some foods which have high sugar content can cause this discomfort.  Even breathing in cold air can trigger that pain reflex.

Having sensitive teeth can be uncomfortable but practicing good dental health and hygiene, having regular dental appointments and working with your dentist can help prevent this from being an ongoing problem. Dr. Cowdin is fully committed to helping her patient’s achieve optimal dental health. Dr. Cowdin and her team work hard to establish and maintaining relationships of trust with all of their patients.