Tooth sensitivity – What is causing it and how can you treat it?

tooth sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity can be described as a strong, extreme and uncomfortable response to hot, cold or air stream. There are many stimuli which can cause this reaction like thermal, osmotic or tactile. Even though these stimuli cause pain, the actual term behind this is hypersensitivity which doesn’t necessarily have to be associated with pain.

The source of tooth sensitivity is actually the dental pulp which is full of nerves and blood vessels. These nerve endings and blood vessels are responsible for dentin hypersensitivity.

What can cause tooth sensitivity?

The mail cause of tooth sensitivity is the exposure of dentinal tubules. This can occur either due to gum recession or if our teeth look a lot of enamel (the hard surface that protects our teeth).

If the cause of the sensitivity is gum recession, then this is mostly caused by:

  • Gums that are not adequately attached to the tooth
  • If you brush your teeth too severely and create abrasions
  • If you pick your teeth to hard or you eat hard food which cause gum lacerations
  • Cleaning your teeth too frequently
  • Gum recession due to some other illness and
  • Crown preparation

If the sensitivity is caused by loss of enamel, this is mostly because:

  • Teeth grinding or bruxism
  • The type of food/drinks you consume (if they are acidic, they can “eat” away your tooth enamel)
  • Poor dental hygiene which doesn’t clean your teeth thoroughly enough
  • Enamel erosion because of poor and unbalanced diet (remember, we need to have enough minerals and vitamins in our diet so our tooth enamel can be naturally repaired and restored)

How can we manage this condition?

There are multiple ways you can manage tooth sensitivity, depending on the cause of the problem and whether you want to do it at home or at the dentist.

If the sensitivity is caused by nothing else than simple enamel erosion or too vigorous dental hygiene (or inadequate) then the best way to remedy it is by using better toothpaste, enriched with potassium nitrate and fluoride and to brush your teeth better (softer or be more detailed).

However, if the cause cannot be resolved at home and it’s more sever so you have to pay a visit to your dentist, he/she might use some of the following methods or solutions:


  • Fluoride compounds
  • Resins
  • Bonding agents
  • Tooth cleaning
  • Dietary education and
  • Other treatment options if the cause is gum disease.

So if you noticed sharp and sudden pain when you’re drinking your coffee/tea or when you’re eating ice cream, it might be that you have tooth sensitivity. It’s best to schedule an appointment with your dentist so he could take a look, determine the cause and recommend the best treatment option.


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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!”