Sensitive Teeth Causes and What to Do About It

Sensitive tooth pain can be no joke. If you have it, you probably want to get rid of it as quickly and efficiently as possible. While it’s possible to try numbing agents and hope for the best, that’s treating a symptom alone. It’s a lot easier to address sensitive tooth pain effectively if you know where it’s coming from. Generally speaking, treating the cause is likely to provide better long term relief. So where does sensitive tooth pain come from?


Top 3 Causes of Sensitive Teeth
  1. Thinning Enamel
  2. Receding Gums
  3. Clenching and Grinding


Cause #1- Thinning Enamel

Sensitive teeth allow hot, cold, and acid to reach the nerves on the inner layer of the tooth. Normally, enamel covers and protects the tubules, the tube-like openings between the inner and outer tooth structures. When enamel thins or develops weak spots, it can’t protect the inside of the tooth and nerves get irritated by outside intruders.

What to Do?

If the enamel is damaged, it needs to be repaired. Remineralizing toothpaste and rinses can add back some of the minerals that have been stripped from the thinned enamel, giving it a chance to re-harden and start protecting the inner tooth again.


Cause #2- Receding Gums

There are a number of reasons that gums recede–pull back from the tooth surface. It’s common after extensive orthodontia, it can be related to poor oral care habits, and it happens more frequently with age. Regardless of what started the gum recession, the newly exposed lower tooth surfaces at the root area is more susceptible to sensitive tooth pain.

What to Do?

Remineralizing products can be of some help here, too. Fortifying the newly exposed enamel can help alleviate the newly emerged sensitivity. If sensitivity continues, you can consider bonding at the root surface to alleviate the pain. In bonding, your dentist will apply a resin like the resin used in tooth-colored fillings to the exposed root surfaces. It creates a new protective layer to close off the tubules, stopping sensitivity.


Cause #3- Clenching and Grinding

You already know that clenching and grinding are hard on your teeth. The intense pressure can contribute to gum recession and can cause microcracks in the tooth enamel. For the exact reasons discussed above, those can leave you with painful, sensitive teeth. Grinding can directly wear at enamel surfaces, exacerbating sensitivity.

What to Do?

Because clenching and grinding are behaviors commonly associated with stress, stress management is likely to play a part in managing tooth sensitivity from this cause. If the habit is really entrenched or happens mostly at night, your dentist can fit you with a nighttime bite guard to keep your clenching and/or grinding from doing damage to your teeth. If a long standing habit of clenching has caused additional problems from gum recession and enamel loss, it may be necessary to treat the other contributing factors to achieve full relief.


A little care can help you manage your tooth sensitivity by addressing the causes.

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