6 Reasons for sensitive teeth

Does the sip of hot coffee or a lick of an ice-cream cause a sharp pain in your tooth? Do you want to avoid brushing or flossing for fear of pain? Do you avoid sweets? If so, you have “SENSITIVE TEETH”.

Why does your teeth feel sensitive?

Your tooth is a living organ with its own  nerve supply and is made up of several layers of hard and soft structures. Within these hard structures is nestled your soft pulp tissue. Your pulp contains the nerves and blood vessels. The enamel and cementum( the structure that covers the root of your tooth like the enamel covers the crown of your tooth) are considered the “non-conductors” of your tooth. This is because they do not have any contact with the nerves in the pulp. And hence the dentin becomes an important structure as it is directly connected  with your pulp. The bulk of dentin in your tooth is made up of fine tubules, which contains fluid. These tubules conduct the sensations of cold and hot to the nerves within your pulp. As long as the enamel and cementum covers the dentin, the dentinal tubules are not exposed. When your dentin is exposed, you feel the sensitivity. The dentin is  exposed in cases of

  • Dental caries
  • Root caries
  • Cracked tooth
  • Abrasion, attrition and erosion
  • Worn out or fractured fillings
  • Gum recession
  • Deep developmental pits and grooves

Dental caries

Dental caries or tooth decay, is the destruction of the hard structures of your tooth. The acids from the bacteria dissolves your tooth enamel and subsequently destruct the dentin. The dentin thus exposed makes you sensitive to the external stimuli. Visit your dentist regularly, as timely detection of cavities and appropriate treatment will provide relief.

Root caries

When you have a decay in the root of your tooth, it is called “root caries”. This type of decay happens commonly in between two teeth, where you cannot clean easily and food particles remain. Root caries can also happen underneath your poorly maintained crown. You could be unaware of root caries progressing in your mouth, as this type of decay progresses rapidly. This is because the thickness of the dentin in your tooth is lesser in the root portion of the tooth. Your dentist will be able to detect early root caries. Hence, do not miss your dental appointments.

Cracked tooth

Your can have a cracked tooth because of many reasons. When you bite on very hard food, during contact sports, an accidental fall or certain developmental defects of your teeth can break your tooth. Even a badly decayed tooth in your mouth can break eventually. Subsequent exposure of dentin in a cracked tooth causes sensitivity. Meet your dentist immediately for treatment of a cracked teeth. The earlier your cracked tooth is treated the longer is the life of your tooth.

Abrasion, attrition and erosion

You can lose the enamel of your teeth due to abrasion, attrition or erosion. When your brushing technique is not correct, youAbrasion is due to faulty toothbrushing, attrition is normal wear and tear of tooth enamel and erosion is loss of enamel due to acids. Whatever is the reason, enamel loss leads to dentin exposure and subsequent sensitivity. Follow your dentists advise on the correct tooth brushing techniques to avoid abrasion. Do not apply pressure on teeth while brushing. Severe attrition of teeth that is causing sensitivity can be treated by intentional RCT procedure and crown. Erosion occurs in severe acid reflux. Talk to your doctor about the treatment of the condition.

Worn out or fractured fillings

A restored tooth is not the end of the road. The margins of the fillings are areas susceptible to “secondary decay”. Brush the area well to keep the margins clean. Visit your dentist regularly to get the fillings checked for any fracture. If so get them replaced with new fillings immediately. Such areas left untreated leads to secondary decay ( decay developing in previously treated tooth) that can cause sensitivity.

Gum recession

The gums sit around the neck of the tooth like a collar around the neck. Untreated gum disease can cause inflammation in the gums and separate the gums from the tooth. The causes pockets in the gums. These pockets contain inflamed tissue and disease exudate( pus ), which separate the gums from the teeth. The height of the gums around the tooth reduces exposing the root of the tooth. This causes sensitivity. Treating gum disease in the early stages prevents such damage. Regular scaling procedures and good oral hygiene practices help prevent gum infections.

Deep development pits and grooves

The tooth develops by the fusion of several lobes of the tooth germ. The lines along which these lobes fuse create grooves and pits that are visible on the chewing surfaces of the tooth. When these pits and grooves do not fuse fully, it becomes a potential area for tooth decay. These ares also have exposed dentin. This causes sensitivity to hot, cold or sweets. Talk to your dentist about sealants. These are soft, flowable tooth coloured materials used to cover such defects in the tooth.


Your dentist is the best person to help your sensitive teeth. You may be given  desensitizing pastes or a fluoridated paste in mild cases. Topical fluoride gels may be applied by your dentist in other cases. Severe cases of sensitivity may require gum surgeries or RCT procedures. Talk to your dentist about your treatment options. However good home care procedures of brushing, flossing and using a mouth rinse is important.

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