What causes sensitive teeth? | 5 causes of tooth sensitivity [Skip to Content]

What is causing your sensitive teeth?

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Medically reviewed by: Dr Ruben Garcia BDS(Hons), MFGDP (UK), MClinDent Periodontology/Implantology(UCL), Cert Perio (EFP), MRDRCS (Eng)

sensitive teeth

Why can some people bite ice lollies and others can't?

What are the causes of sensitive teeth?

Most of us will experience sensitive teeth at some point in our lives. Whether it’s the occasional twinge from biting into an ice lolly, or teeth so sensitive that hurts to breathe in cold air.

Our teeth become sensitive when the enamel, the tooth’s protective layer, is thin or becomes damaged. This exposes the underlying dentine, which contains small tubules that lead directly to the nerves in your teeth. You could have naturally thing enamel but more often than not enamel thinning or damage is caused by one of the following:

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Vigorous brushing

While it’s important to brush your teeth thoroughly, harder is most certainly not better. If you scrub away at your teeth, particularly just after eating while your enamel is soft, you run the risk of gradually wearing it away. Your enamel is slightly thinner towards the gum line, so this is often the area where you’ll first feel the impact of over-enthusiastic brushing.

Acid erosion

Sugar and acids in your diet can over time wear away tooth enamel through a process known as demineralisation. While your saliva protects against thins process – if you are frequently eating high quantities of sugary and acidic foods, permanent damage can occur.


Gum recession

Some gum recession is expected as we age, but it can also happen because of gum disease, aggressive brushing and poor oral hygiene. As the gum recedes it exposes the roots of your teeth to the elements, causing pain and sensitivity. To help prevent the risk of premature recession, it’s important to brush and floss thoroughly and see your dentist and dental hygienist regularly.

Teeth grinding

Tooth enamel is very strong, but continually grinding your teeth can eventually wear it down, exposing sensitive dentine and nerves. Tooth grinding is quite often subconscious or while sleeping, so trying to stop can take some effort or even impossible. Lifestyle changes can help, or your dentist can provide you with a custom-made mouthguard to wear at night.


Teeth Whitening

Tooth whitening works by clearing the microscopic tubules in your enamel that lead to the sensitive, nerve-filled, dentine. So it is not uncommon for sensitivity to occur while you are whitening your teeth, but it should be transient and should resolve after your whitening treatment is complete. If already have sensitive teeth, speak to your dentist about the more gentle treatments with desensitising ingredients built-in.

Treating sensitive teeth

We’ve already talked about some of the ways to prevent sensitive teeth, but once you have them, what’s the best way to treat them?

Most cases can be treated using a toothpaste that’s been specially designed to help sensitive teeth. These work by blocking the tubules that lead to your nerves. You should notice a difference within a few days, but for faster results, you can try rubbing the toothpaste directly on any affected areas.

If this doesn’t help, you may need a stronger, prescription-strength toothpaste or treatment with a fluoride varnish. It’s also important to treat the underlying cause where possible, whether that’s poor oral hygiene, decayed or damaged teeth.

Severe cases may need to be referred to an endodontist (root canal specialist), who will make sure there are no problems with the pulp or nerves inside your teeth.

Ask your dentist at Holland Park Dental Centre

As your trusted dentist in Kensington and Chelsea, we can help you achieve a healthy and beautiful smile with cosmetic dentistry. Book a  New Patient Dental Exam for just £85 and let us know about your sensitive teeth symptoms.  Contact us today to discuss a plan or to book an appointment.

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