The first sign that you have sensitive teeth is usually a short, sharp pain through your teeth. And in many people, it is experienced when a tooth is sensitive to hot and cold substances. Tooth sensitivity can be really frustrating when it stops you from enjoying your favorite food and drinks. Fortunately, there are plenty of treatments for tooth sensitivity for you to explore. So, if you're wondering what to do for a sensitive tooth, stay tuned because in this article we will cover:
- Sensitive tooth causes
- How to fix sensitive teeth
- How you can prevent teeth sensitivity
- Mouthwash and toothpaste for sensitive teeth
- Teeth whitening for sensitive teeth
- Some of the most commonly asked questions
It’s always a worrying feeling to get sore teeth, but you certainly aren't alone. In fact, one study found that tooth sensitivity was experienced by one in eight dental patients in the northwest United States. So, since this is such a prevalent problem, here we will hopefully give you all the information that you need so you know how to stop a sensitive tooth from becoming an oral health problem.
Table of contents
- 1 What causes sensitive teeth?
- 2 Triggers for tooth sensitivity
- 3 Treatments for a sensitive tooth
- 4 Teeth whitening for sensitive teeth
- 5 Preventing tooth sensitivity
- 6 Conclusion
- 7 Frequently asked questions
- 7.1 Why are my teeth so sensitive?
- 7.2 How do I get rid of tooth sensitivity?
- 7.3 Why do I have sensitive teeth during pregnancy?
- 7.4 Will my teeth be sensitive after whitening?
- 7.5 Why do I have tooth sensitivity after a filling?
- 7.6 Why are my teeth sensitive to cold?
- 7.7 Why is just one of my teeth sensitive to cold?
- 7.8 What causes sudden sensitivity?
What causes sensitive teeth?
Let's look at what might be causing your tooth sensitivity. Some are underlying issues that need to be addressed, but others can cause tooth sensitivity to just come and go, apparently at random. Sensitivity in the mouth is most common in people aged 20-40 years old and women are more likely to be affected than men. Could any of the following tooth sensitivity causes be the reason for your discomfort?
- Worn down enamel is a very common sensitive tooth cause. 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 may find your teeth sensitive to cold or heat, with a translucent appearance.
- Exposed tooth roots is another common sensitive tooth cause. This means 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 soreness 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 them 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 the triggers mentioned above, such as heat, cold, sugar and fillings.
Your teeth are the hardest component of your body, even more so than your bones. However, even though they’re hard, they can still get problems like tooth sensitivity when the inner parts of the tooth become irritated. Here’s the makeup of your teeth and how they get sensitive:
- Enamel, which is the hard outer layer
- Dentin, which is softer and surrounds your tooth root
- Tooth pulp, which is inside the dentin.
The tooth pulp is the sensitive tooth center that is the home to delicate blood vessels in nerves. These nerves are what get sensitivity, signaling to you that there is an issue with your teeth that a dentist needs to see. Major reasons for tooth sensitivity can include tooth decay, too much acidity in a person's diet, and gum recession.
Dr. Ania Mohelicki, Dr. Ania Dental Clinic
Triggers for tooth sensitivity
Now that you know some of the causes, let's have a look at some of the things that will trigger a sensitive tooth episode. Triggers are different than causes, as they are separate factors that will provoke tooth sensitivity. Have a look at some of the following things that could be prompting your tooth sensitivity.
Tooth sensitive to cold water, food or air
Have you ever gleefully taken a big bite out of an ice cream cone, expecting to bask in a euphoric sugar high? But then experienced a painful shock instead? Well, having a tooth sensitive to cold is an all too common experience suffered by many in the US.
So why are your teeth sensitive to cold food and drinks? Or maybe even to the bracing wind on a January day? Small chips in, or worn down enamel, as mentioned above, are most likely the culprit when you have a tooth sensitive to cold. This thin or cracked enamel lets cold sensations through to the nerves of your teeth.
Additionally, if you have a tooth sensitive to heat, it's most likely triggered by the same factors as is tooth sensitivity to cold.
Tooth sensitive to pressure and touch
If you experience tooth sensitivity when you touch your tooth with a finger, or apply other pressure to your teeth, like during brushing or when chewing, this may also be caused by worn down enamel. Sensitivity may also be triggered by pressure if you have poor dental alignment, bruxism or tooth fractures.
Teeth sensitive to sugar
If you have teeth sensitive to sugar, you may be caught up in a vicious cycle. Sugar can lead to enamel erosion and tooth decay. The resulting cracks and weak enamel allow the nerves in your teeth to come in to contact with exterior stimuli, causing sensitivity and pain.
Tooth sensitivity after a filling
Is your tooth sensitive to cold after filling procedures? Experiencing tooth sensitivity after a filling is quite common. If you've recently had a filling, you may experience:
- Tooth sensitivity after a filling because the filling procedure has irritated a nerve ending inside the tooth
- A tooth sensitive after filling because of bite alignment problems from a misaligned filling
- A tooth sensitive after filling due to pulpitis, the inflammation of the tooth's pulp
You should ask your dentist about tooth sensitivity after fillings, especially if experienced more than two weeks after the procedure, so you can be seen and treated if needed.
Treatments for a sensitive tooth
If you're reading this article, you're probably wondering how to treat 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 a sensitive tooth. On the other hand, you may need dental treatment to fix the underlying cause before your tooth sensitivity develops into a full-blown toothache.
The following is a breakdown of some of the treatments that might be suitable for you.
Natural home remedies for sensitive teeth
If you have sudden tooth sensitivity, you might look around the kitchen for a home remedy for tooth sensitivity. 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. There are studies that say it can reduce gum disease (although the validity of the studies is questioned by the ADA) and so could help protect against tooth sensitivity.
- Saltwater rinses are one of the easiest and most common home remedies for sensitive teeth. They help to relieve sensitivity because 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 tooth pain relief. As an added bonus, saltwater has been noted to reduce plaque build-up.
- Honey and warm water rinses work in a similar way to saltwater ones. Honey is known to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities that can help with sensitive tooth pain.
- Clove oil gel is a well-known sensitive teeth home remedy and scientists have confirmed it too. It might not stop pain from tooth sensitivity immediately, but the natural pain-killing action should kick in after around 5-10 minutes.
Home remedies for teeth sensitive to cold
- Avoid triggering foods: This is one of the most effective ways to help your teeth when they are sensitive to cold. That means trying to stay away from ice cream or cold drinks.
- Use a special toothpaste: You'll read more about this below, but there are plenty of kinds of toothpaste for sensitive teeth out there.
- Use a soft toothbrush: Using a toothbrush with soft bristles will help keep irritation down, and won't contribute to the wear on your enamel. There are plenty of electric and manual options for tooth sensitivity.
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 pharmacy that claim to affect pain relief. These are usually in the form of toothpastes and mouthwashes which contain extra fluoride. Here's what to look for:
Mouthwash for sensitive teeth: This can help with sensitive tooth symptoms in the long term. The best mouthwash for sensitive teeth will probably be PH-balanced and sulfate-free like CloSYS Ultra Sensitive mouthwash. This mouthwash has the ADA Seal of Acceptance and can be used multiple times a day.
Toothpaste for sensitive teeth: Toothpastes 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 a toothpaste with 1350–1500 ppm of fluoride to get the best effect.
The best toothpaste for sensitive teeth (or at least one of them) in the US is Sensodyne Pronamel Toothpaste, from a brand which specializes in treating this problem. It gets really good reviews and some users say that it improved their teeth sensitivity within a couple of days.
Another option that may be the best toothpaste for sensitive teeth, and that is also fluoride-free 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 sensitive teeth toothpaste with a higher fluoride concentration to relieve sore teeth.
When to visit a dentist
The pain from tooth sensitivity 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 pain from a sensitive tooth. 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, your dentist will probably have the answer. Depending on what's causing your teeth to be sensitive, they may recommend one of these treatments:
Teeth whitening for sensitive teeth
You don't have to completely give up on your quest for a brighter smile just because you have tooth sensitivity. Whitening products can be harsh on your enamel though, so you may want to consider using products that will be gentler on your enamel and your sensitive tooth in general. In fact, there's a whole sector built on teeth whitening and sensitive teeth.
If you are wondering about the options for best teeth whitening for sensitive teeth, check out our article on whitening to find out more. There you'll read about different whitening methods like the best whitening toothpaste for sensitive teeth.
Preventing tooth sensitivity
We’ve discussed some sensitive teeth remedies, 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 soda and fruit juice, you can minimize damage to your teeth. You can even take a reusable straw with you for when you're on the go!
Another one of the sensitive tooth causes is improper brushing technique. You should use a soft or medium brush in a circular or up-and-down motion (not side-to-side), and avoid a harsh or abrasive toothpaste for sensitive teeth.
Alternatively, consider investing in an electric toothbrush for your 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, a team of dentists recap on tooth sensitivity prevention, causes and treatments:
There are a plethora of reasons for why you may have teeth sensitivity: You may have sensitive teeth after a filling, maybe your teeth are sensitive after whitening, or like many people, maybe you have teeth that are sensitive to hot and cold stimuli.
Whatever the reason, the best remedy is to follow correct brushing and general care routines. This includes brushing regularly and correctly (using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth with at least 1350 ppm of fluoride), flossing, and using mouthwash for teeth sensitivity every day. Keep up with regular dental visits so they can spot cavities or gum problems early on and offer you the most appropriate treatment.
Frequently asked questions
Why are my teeth so sensitive?
Are your teeth sensitive to hot and cold sensations? Or maybe to pressure from chewing or brushing your teeth? 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.
There may also be things that trigger your tooth sensitivity, like having tooth sensitivity to cold stimuli or a tooth sensitive to hot stimuli. Your dentist will be able to check your mouth and identify any underlying problems that need to be treated.
How do I get rid of tooth sensitivity?
Are you looking for a sensitive teeth remedy? You can decrease how sensitivity by using special toothpastes and mouthwashes designed to protect and strengthen your tooth enamel. For a total fix, 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 during pregnancy?
It is completely normal to have sensitive teeth during pregnancy. Due to changes in hormones, your teeth become more susceptible to plaque and this makes gum disease more likely, causing sensitivity.
Will my teeth be sensitive after whitening?
It is possible to develop teeth sensitivity after whitening them, either with a home kit or at the dentist. However, some whitening kits may be specially formulated to be gentle, 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 it feels.
Why do I have tooth sensitivity after a filling?
Sensitive teeth after a filling aren't uncommon and the feeling 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.
Why are my teeth sensitive to cold?
Many people experience at least fleeting sensitivity to cold at some point in their lives. Your teeth are most likely sensitive to cold due to worn down, or small cracks in your enamel. If your case is severe, your dentist will recommend the right treatment for you. Additionally, if your teeth are sensitive to heat, it is most likely due to the same issue.
Why is just one of my teeth sensitive to cold?
You may experience that just one tooth is sensitive to cold or hot stimuli. Having just one sensitive tooth may indicate a more serious problem than general tooth sensitivity. If one tooth is bothering you, your dentist will want to examine it for common sensitive tooth causes such as decay.
What causes sudden sensitivity?
If you have sensitive teeth all of a sudden, it may be because your enamel has worn down or your roots are a bit exposed. Sudden tooth sensitivity is relatively common, and usually occurs when eating cold or acidic foods. If you are bothered by tooth sensitivity, ask your dentist about it and they'll help you find a solution. Some of the most common remedies for sudden tooth sensitivity are using a toothbrush with soft bristles and toothpaste made to combat tooth sensitivity.