Tooth sensitivity

Ever felt a sharp, shooting pain while biting into your ice cream cone? Chances are you have tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity occurs whenever there is damage to the teeth and the surrounding gums. Although easily treatable, it is extremely essential to get it looked at by your dentist for it may be a sign of a cavity or something abnormal. Here’s everything you need to know

What is tooth sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity or dentin hypersensitivity refers to a sharp, shooting sensation that occurs in the teeth in response to any stimuli like hot or cold temperatures. It can be short-lived or chronic and can affect one tooth or several teeth depending on the cause.

Why is my tooth sensitive

Tooth sensitivity typically occurs when the enamel (or cementum in roots), which is the protective layer on top of the tooth, wears off or gets damaged. This leads to the exposure of the more sensitive and less dense inner layer called dentin. The dentin contains numerous microscopic tubules that carry any stimulus from hot, cold or acidic food to the nerve, which in turn causes sensitivity.


There are several possible reasons why your tooth could be sensitive:


  • Tooth decay or cavities

  • Wearing of tooth enamel due to excessive/incorrect brushing habits or clenching/grinding subconsciously

  • Erosion of enamel due to acidic foods or beverages or due to gastric reflux from GERD or bulimia

  • Fractured tooth structure or worn out fillings

  • Exposed roots due to receding gums

  • Temporary sensitivity from recent dental procedures like fillings, crowns or bleaching.

How is tooth sensitivity treated

Depending on the root cause of the problem, there are several things your dentist can do to resolve your sensitivity. The underlying cause is addressed first. Any tooth sensitivity that occurs due to any medical conditions like gastric disturbances or eating disorders need intervention by a physician.


If the sensitivity is caused due to uncontrolled clenching or grinding habits, a mouth appliance can be fabricated to prevent the teeth from contacting.


For mild sensitivity, certain conservative treatment options may be utilized to ease the pain:


  • Use of desensitizing toothpastes. These pastes contain certain chemicals that help, block the nerve transmission and subsequent sensitivity.

  • Fillings may be placed on exposed root surfaces or abraded teeth to seal the inner layers of the teeth

  • Dental sealants

  • Fluoride gel to strengthen enamel


If the tooth sensitivity is severe, then the tooth may have to be treated endodontically (root canal treatment) followed by placement of a cap/crown. In certain cases, gum grafts may be required to protect the exposed root surfaces.

How to prevent tooth sensitivity

While there are many ways to treat sensitive teeth, nothing works better than preventing it in the first place. Tooth sensitivity can easily be prevented by following certain precautions:


  • Adapt correct brushing techniques - Don’t brush too hard. Brushing with excessive force in a single direction can cause the enamel to wear and result in subsequent sensitivity. Using a soft toothbrush is advisable.

  • Avoid sticky, sugary foods and carbonated beverages.

  • Cut down acidic foods or beverages. Drink water or rinse mouth after consumption to neutralize the acid levels in mouth

  • Use a mouth guard if you have a clenching habit

  • And lastly, do not hesitate to make an appointment with your dentist if you experience any kind of sensitivity.