Sensitive Teeth Causes and Treatments Including Toothpastes and Home Remedies

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The first sign that you have sensitive teeth is usually a short, sharp pain through your teeth when drinking a cold or hot drink. Tooth sensitivity can be really frustrating when it stops you enjoying your favourite food and drinks. Fortunately, there are plenty of treatments for sensitive teeth for you to explore.

woman with teeth sensitive to cold ice cream
Teeth can be sensitive to cold, heat, sugar, and acidic foods

In this article we will cover:

  • The causes of sensitive teeth
  • Different treatments available
  • How you can prevent teeth sensitivity
  • The best sensitive toothpastes and other products
  • Some of the most commonly asked questions

It’s always a worrying feeling to get sore teeth, but here we will hopefully give you all the information that you need so you know how to stop sensitive teeth from becoming a problem.

What causes sensitive teeth?

There are a few possible causes of sensitive teeth. Some are underlying issues that need to be addressed, but others can cause tooth sensitivity to just come and go, apparently at random. Sensitive gums and teeth are most common in people aged 20-40 years old and women are more likely to be affected than men.

Could any of the following sensitive teeth causes be the reason for your discomfort?

what causes sensitive teeth
In a healthy tooth, enamel protects the nerves and stops sensitivity
  • Worn down enamel can cause very sensitive teeth. Enamel is the solid layer on the outside of your teeth that protects the dentine and tooth nerves underneath. If you start to wear out and lose this, you will find your tooth is sensitive to heat and cold.
  • Exposed tooth roots mean the part of your tooth with the least protective enamel is exposed, so there’s a greater chance of sensitivity.
  • Cavities are another way your dentine and tooth nerves can become exposed, giving you sore teeth and sensitivity.
  • A cracked or chipped tooth exposes the middle of your tooth and sometimes even nerves. We have a full guide on how to deal with cracked and chipped teeth for lots more information.
  • A worn out or ill-fitting filling will expose an old cavity to the same problems of teeth sensitivity as before you got the filling.
  • Gum disease exposes the teeth roots, which don’t have any protective enamel, thereby causing the teeth to become sensitive.
  • Gum erosion is a normal process – nearly 90% of people over 65 experience it – and it will increase the chances of having teeth sensitive to cold and heat.

Any of these factors can make the tooth sensitive to heat, cold, sugar and acid.

Treatments for sensitive teeth

Depending on the cause of your sensitive gums and teeth, there are a range of treatment options to try. In certain cases, home remedies or store-bought products can be a quick, easy, and effective way to stop sensitive teeth. On the other hand, you may need dental treatment to fix the underlying cause before your tooth sensitivity develops into a full-blown toothache.

Here is a breakdown of some of the treatments that might be suitable for you.

Natural home remedies for sensitive teeth

coconut oil for tooth sensitivity
Coconut oil can help combat the causes of sensitivity

When your teeth are suddenly sensitive, you might look around the kitchen and think, “What do I have lying around that helps sensitive teeth?” Well, there are a few options that you can try at home before spending money on any medicines.

  • Oil pulling involves swishing oil, such as coconut oil, around your mouth. It’s been proven to reduce gum disease and so could help protect against sensitive teeth.
  • Salt water rinses can help to relieve sensitivity, since salt has antiseptic properties and helps to reduce inflammation. Try adding a teaspoon of salt to a cup of hot water, stir until it dissolves, allow it to cool, then rinse around your mouth to get some quick sensitive teeth pain relief. As an added bonus, salt water has been noted to reduce plaque build-up.
  • Honey and warm water rinses work in a similar way to salt water ones. Honey is known to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities that can help with sensitive teeth pain.
  • Clove oil gel is a well-known home remedy for toothache and scientists have confirmed it too. It might not stop sensitive teeth pain immediately, but the natural pain-killing action should kick in after around 5-10 minutes.

Mouthwash and toothpaste for sensitive teeth

Whether you want to treat sensitive front teeth or back teeth, you’ll find a range of products in your local supermarket or chemist that claim to cure sensitive teeth pain. These are usually in the form of toothpastes and mouthwashes which contain extra fluoride. Here’s what to look for:

Mouthwash can help with sensitive teeth symptoms in the long term. Specially formulated mouthwash for sensitive teeth like Listerine Advanced Defence Sensitive usually contains fluoride. Use it twice a day but at different times to when you brush.

Toothpaste for sensitive teeth can be really effective as a long-term treatment; some people report improvement in sensitive gums and teeth within a few days. Make sure that you choose a toothpaste with fluoride in it, as this is a key ingredient to strengthening tooth enamel. Look for products with 1350 – 1500 ppm of fluoride to get the best effect.

best toothpaste for sensitive teeth
Sensodyne has a range of toothpastes for sensitive teeth

One of the best toothpastes for sensitive teeth in the UK is Sensodyne Sensitive Toothpaste Daily, from a brand which specialises in treating this problem. It gets really good reviews and some users say that it improved their really sensitive teeth within a couple of days.

Another option for those who want a fluoride-free sensitive teeth toothpaste is Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief. It contains arginine and calcium carbonate to rebuild enamel and help physically block any pain you might be experiencing.

Your dentist may prescribe you a toothpaste with a higher fluoride concentration to relieve sore teeth.

When to visit a dentist

The pain from sensitive teeth should only be fleeting, rather than long-lasting or constant. When you have teeth sensitive to sugar, acid, or extreme temperatures, the pain will only occur if your teeth come into contact with these things.

If the pain lasts for a long time after these triggers, or isn’t associated with anything in particular that you eat or drink, there’s a chance that a more serious problem is causing your sensitive teeth pain. In this case, it’s best to have a dental checkup and mention your concerns.

Until your appointment, you can manage any pain by taking regular painkillers (if they are normally suitable for you). Check out our guide to toothache for more information about what might be causing the pain, what treatments are available, and how you can manage your pain at home.

How to fix sensitive teeth for good

If you’re looking for a complete cure for sensitive teeth, your dentist will probably have the answer. Depending on what’s causing your teeth to be sensitive, they may recommend one of these treatments:

Treatment How it helps sensitivity Pros Cons
Fluoride application Fluoride can help prevent enamel loss and tooth decay. Your dentist can ‘paint’ fluoride over the sensitive areas to get quicker results than other fluoride treatments like toothpaste. ✔️Has a long-lasting effect
✔️Protects teeth from any further sensitivity as well as relieving existing pain
❌Several dentist visits are usually required
❌It can take a few weeks for the treatment to be really effective
Prescription toothpaste Your dentist might prescribe you Duraphat 5000 for sensitive teeth. It contains 5000ppm of fluoride, much higher than normal sensitive teeth toothpaste, so can help strengthen enamel against sensitivity. ✔️You use it just like normal toothpaste
✔️Can have a long-lasting, positive effect on your dental health
❌More expensive than normal toothpaste
❌You need to brush more regularly – after every meal
Bonding Bonding resin for sensitive teeth is used by dentists to cover sensitive areas where enamel has been worn away. By covering the problem area there should be no more sensitivity. ✔️Long term fix – bonding can last many years
✔️Cost effective, at around £90-300 per tooth
❌Bonded material can become a different colour to your teeth over time
❌Your natural tooth will need to be roughened up to apply it
Filling When teeth sensitivity is caused by a cavity, your dentist can place a filling to plug it up and stop it getting worse. ✔️Can usually be done in one appointment
✔️Cost effective; £62.10 on the NHS and £30-100 privately depending on size and material
❌Some of your healthy tooth will be lost to prepare it for the filling
Surgical gum graft If the cause of your sensitive gums and teeth is receding gums, then your dentist may suggest surgery to remove gum tissue from somewhere else and graft it onto the receding area. ✔️Should be a long-term solution
✔️Will improve aesthetics of receding gums too
❌Is a surgical procedure that requires an anaesthetic
❌Gum disease needs managing to prevent the problem recurring
Root canal surgery In extreme cases of sensitivity, root canal surgery may be performed to remove exposed nerves. See our full guide to root canal treatment for more details. ✔️It should be a cure for sensitive teeth
✔️Can prevent the need for more drastic treatment like extraction
❌Can take a long time and be quite uncomfortable
❌May also require a tooth crown
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Preventing tooth sensitivity

ice drink hurts teeth
Using a straw may help

We’ve discussed how to help sensitive teeth, but did you know it’s also preventable? A major culprit for wearing away enamel and causing cavities is your diet. By using a straw for sugary or acidic drinks like fizzy drinks and fruit juice, you can minimise damage to your teeth. Take a metal straw wherever you go so you’re always prepared.

Another big reason you might have sensitive teeth is if you aren’t brushing correctly. You should use a soft or medium brush in a circular or up-and-down motion (not side-to-side), and avoid harsh or abrasive toothpastes.

Alternatively, consider investing in an electric toothbrush for your sensitive teeth. An electric toothbrush can help you brush correctly, meaning you’re much less likely to wear away your enamel and develop cavities.  Our article all about electric toothbrushes can help you choose the right one for your needs.

In this video, dentist Brian Halvorsen recaps on tooth sensitivity prevention, causes and treatments:

This informative video is a invaluable time-saver that will enable you to get good at dental care. Watch our video on How To Deal With Sensitive Teeth from one of Videojug's industry leaders. Subscribe! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=videojughealth Check Out Our Channel Page: http://www.youtube.com/user/videojughealth Like Us On Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/videojug Follow Us On Twitter! http://www.twitter.com/videojug Watch This and Other Related films here: http://www.videojug.com/film/how-to-treat-sensitive-teeth

Frequently asked questions

Why are my teeth so sensitive?

Sensitive gums and teeth are caused by the wearing away of the hard, enamel coating of your teeth. If the sensitivity feels quite extreme you might have a cavity, infection or gum disease. Your dentist will be able to check your teeth and identify any underlying problems that need to be treated.

How do I get rid of sensitive teeth?

You can decrease how sensitive your teeth are by using toothpastes and mouthwashes designed to protect and strengthen your tooth enamel. For a complete cure you will need to visit a dentist for bonding, a gum graft, a filling, or possibly root canal treatment.

Why do I have sensitive teeth in early pregnancy?

teeth sensitive when pregnant
Sensitivity may be heightened when pregnant

It is completely normal to have sensitive teeth in pregnancy. Due to changes in hormones your teeth become more susceptible to plaque and this makes gum disease more likely, causing sensitivity. The good news is that dentistry is free on the NHS for pregnant women and those who have given birth in the last year, so visit a dentist to make sure your teeth stay healthy.

Will I get sensitive teeth from whitening products?

It is possible to develop sensitive teeth after whitening them, either with a home kit or at the dentist. However, certain whitening kits like Smile Avenue are specially formulated to be gentle on teeth, so you might want to start there. You can also start by using the product for less than the recommended time, and build it up slowly to see how your teeth feel.

I have a sensitive tooth after a filling, why?

A sensitive tooth after a filling isn’t uncommon and it should subside by itself after a few days. The most likely reason for the sensitivity is that a nerve ending in the tooth has been disturbed. After it has had time to heal, it should feel normal again. If you continue to experience sensitivity for more than two weeks after getting a filling then contact your dentist.

Conclusion

The best thing for sensitive teeth is to follow correct brushing and general care routines. This includes brushing regularly and correctly (using a toothpaste with at least 1350 ppm of fluoride), flossing, and using mouthwash for sensitive teeth every day. Keep up with regular dentist visits so they can spot cavities or gum problems early on and offer you the most appropriate treatment.

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Sources

Medical News Today: Why does my tooth still hurt after a filling? Consulted 12th April 2019.

Oral Health Foundation: Sensitive teeth. Consulted 12th April 2019.

NCBI: The etiology and prevalence of gingival recession. Consulted 12th April 2019.

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