Teeth Sensitivity


Everybody has experienced tooth sensitivity at some point, probably caused by an ice cream, a cup of coffee or a spoon of soup. This can be a chronic or a temporary condition. In some people, it may hurt in one specific area while in others several teeth can be involved.

Most of the times, teeth sensitivity is triggered by an external factor and the resulting pain can last for a few seconds or linger for hours.

Irrespective of when and how it happens, teeth sensitivity always causes discomfort, with the potential to ruin the pleasure of a meal, a beverage or a social get together. It can even make simple activities such as tooth brushing uncomfortable.

Teeth sensitivity is not normal and should be investigated to avoid serious problems.



Teeth can become sensitive due to several reasons, the most common being exposure of dentin. A tooth is mainly composed of enamel and dentin: enamel is the outer layer; dentin lies underneath the enamel and has nerve endings inside it. When dentin is exposed, the nerve ends react to different stimuli, resulting in pain.

The most common conditions can result in exposure of dentin and teeth sensitivity, including:

  • Tooth decay, chipped, broken teeth, broken fillings
  • Gum disease, gum recession: gum disease often results in receding gums, exposing part of the tooth root and causing pain.
  • Dental work: after getting work done on your teeth, such as fillings, crowns or even bleaching, the involved teeth can feel sensitive for a few days, after which it should get better.
  • Acidic diet and digestive problems: conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux and bulimia can create an acidic environment in the mouth. As a result, the enamel can be worn out, exposing dentin. Frequent eating and drinking of acidic foods and drinks can also wear away the enamel and cause sensitivity.
  • Tooth grinding and aggressive toothbrushing: both conditions can worn down enamel.

Sensitivity can be triggered by cold air, flossing, tooth brushing, cold, hot or acidic foods and beverages.



A dysfunctional bite can be the underlying cause for tooth sensitivity, being frequently overlooked by dentists. Sensitivity with no apparent cause can be the result of an unbalanced bite.

A bad bite leads to unequal dispersal of biting pressure, leading to intense forces in some teeth. In many cases, these forces are above the tolerated limit, with consequences for our teeth, such as enamel wear, higher risk for gum disease and gum recession. Since these conditions expose dentin, they can lead to tooth sensitivity.

Even if dentin is not exposed, excessive rubbing of teeth against each other in an unbalanced bite can lead to overstimulation of the nerves inside them, raising sensitivity. In a bad bite, teeth that should not be in contact in certain movements can be rubbing against each other every time the lower jaws moves.

If the person grinds the teeth, there is even stronger pressure on certain areas, affecting the nerves, which respond with higher sensitivity.



In order to define the best treatment plan, the dentist needs to perform a detailed exam of the mouth to find what is causing sensitivity. This usually requires a visual exam, use of diagnostic dental instruments and an x-ray.

Treatment will depend on the cause of the problem. When dentin is exposed, a restoration with a tooth colored material or fluoride application can be necessary. Use of toothpastes for sensitive teeth can help, since they usually present a specific composition to decrease pain. Professional application of fluoride products in the sensitive area can also provide pain relief.

If enamel is worn out due to erosion, lifestyle changes with less consumption of acidic food and drinks are needed. Aggressive tooth brushing can worsen enamel wear, thus use of a softer toothbrush and gentle technique can also help. It is very important to keep a good oral hygiene to keep bacteria away, since they can produce acids that further destroy the enamel.

Pain resulting from teeth sensitivity is usually mild and self-limiting. In the case of severe, long-lasting or spontaneous pain, it may be due to infection/inflammation of the tooth nerve, which can require root canal treatment.

The options above treat only the symptom of the tooth; for a more integrative approach, it is desirable to find what is causing sensitivity.



Many conditions can cause bite issues, including restorations and problems with the positioning of teeth and jaws. Sometimes, adjustment of old fillings, crowns and bridges can restore the balance of the bite; however, for many people, the position of the teeth also needs to be changed, which can only be done through orthodontic treatment.

Beforehand, clunky braces were the only way to correct teeth; now, clear aligner therapy has made orthodontic treatment in adults much more comfortable, convenient and discrete. These plastic trays are custom-made and slowly shift teeth and jaws to improve the bite and the smile.

Having a functional bite can help keep your teeth and your body healthy for a lifetime.