Sensitive teeth – Causes

Sensitive teeth – Causes

The sharp and sudden pain you feel when you drink a hot beverage (coffee, tea etc.) or bite into something cold (ice cream) is known as sensitive teeth. Even though many people disregard this as a temporary and occasional thing, it can be quite serious. And if you leave it untreated, it can progress and become so bad that you have to avoid certain types of drinks and foods, permanently.

In order to know how to handle and treat this, we first must understand what can be the potential cause to sensitive teeth. Once you know this, you can discuss it with your dentist and start looking for the best solution.

What are the symptoms of sensitive teeth?

Probably the most well-known symptom of sensitive teeth is the abrupt, sudden and intense pain or discomfort when we eat/drink something cold, hot and sometimes even sweet. The pain can vary from moderate to extreme, depending on the level of sensitivity. There are instances where people feel pain even when they are brushing/flossing. This often turns them away from this and it becomes a problem of poor oral hygiene.

What causes it?

There is no specific and ONE cause of sensitive teeth. In order to determine what is the cause, you need first need to schedule an appointment with your dentist and have a dental exam. The exam should reveal if there is an underlying cause of sensitive teeth, what is it and what would be the best possible treatment.

Now even though there’s no SINGLE cause of sensitive teeth, there are causes which are most common.

Vigorous brushing

If you’re using a hard-bristled toothbrush and you brush your teeth hard and very vigorously, you will eventually wear down the tooth enamel on your teeth. The enamel is actually a protective layer of your teeth, guarding the second layer, which is the dentin (this is where the nerve endings are). When you wear down the enamel, the dentin (and nerve endings) become exposed and they are quite sensitive to cold, hot, irritation and sugary stuff.

Sensitive teeth can also be caused by the foods you eat

Vigorous brushing isn’t the only thing that can wear down your tooth enamel. The foods that you consume can also do this, especially if they are acidic. Some good examples of acidic foods include:

  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Blueberries
  • Pineapple
  • Grapes


Everyone of us would like to have a bright and white smile. But we have to exercise caution when using teeth-whitening products, especially toothpaste. Even though these products can give you a white smile, the chemicals contained in it can also wear down your tooth enamel causing sensitive teeth. So, make sure that you don’t overdo it. Better yet, if you would like to whiten your teeth, better ask your dentist what would he/she recommend (or do the procedure at the dentist).

Gum disease

This is something we often talk about, since it’s quite common.

When you don’t brush your teeth regularly and you neglect your oral hygiene, the plaque that builds up on your teeth and along the gum line can cause gum disease, infection, inflammation and gum recession. Once the recession occurs, nerve endings on the root can get exposed and make your teeth sensitive.

Teeth grinding

Bruxism or teeth grinding can also wear down the enamel. Luckily there are effective ways you can manage this and protect your teeth, such as wearing a night guard.

Treatment options for sensitive teeth

If you notice that your teeth are sensitive, the first and foremost thing that we highly recommend is that you schedule an appointment at your dentist and do a dental exam. The dentist will be able to determine the cause and based on the circumstance, recommend a solution like:

  • Special toothpaste
  • Fluoride
  • Desensitizing or bonding
  • Gum grafts

Sensitive teeth can seriously disrupt your daily life. The further you leave it untreated, the worse it could get and turn into other complications. So the best option would be to have it diagnosed as soon as possible, find the cause and start the treatment.



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Dr. Nguyen
Dr. Nguyen

Dr. Nguyen is committed to providing high-quality dentistry using state-of-the-art equipment to help you achieve improved oral health and the beautiful smile you deserve.

Dr. Nguyen has served on the Virginia Board of Dentistry and has many achievements such as: Invisalign Premier and Teen Provider, Pre-Fellow with Academy of General Dentistry, Graduate of Aesthetic Continuum, Engel Institute for Dental Implant Training, WaveOne Endodontic Training, HD President’s Club.

Dr. Nguyen enjoys spending time with his wife and three daughters, staying active in the gym, and trying out new restaurants.  When he isn’t at work, you can find him playing basketball, tennis, football, or hiking.

“I want to make you feel right at home, exceed your expectations, and provide an amazing experience!”