Why are my teeth sensitive?

Why are my teeth sensitive?

Are your teeth sensitive to hot, cold, sweet or acidic foods or drinks?


Does tooth brushing or breathing in air through your mouth make your teeth feel uncomfortable and painful?


You are not alone with more than 50% of Australians reporting frequent tooth sensitivity.


Tooth sensitivity is caused by exposure of the soft inner dentine layer of the tooth.


Dentine is made up of tiny fluid filled tubules that run directly to the nerve.


When the dentine is irritated by hot, cold or sweet foods this stimulates the nerve of the tooth causing pain and sensitivity.


Tooth sensitivity can be caused by a variety of different reasons and is sometimes a generalised problem or can be a symptom of a more complex dental issue.


Therefore it is important to discuss this with your dentist or hygienist so the origin of your sensitivity can be diagnosed and any damage to your teeth can be prevented.


Generalised tooth sensitivity is from exposed dentine or exposed root surfaces throughout the mouth.


This may be the result of gum recession and gum disease, incorrect brushing technique, clenching or grinding, acid erosion or acid reflux.


Gum recession is very common and is caused by gum disease, clenching or grinding teeth, incorrect brushing technique or using abrasive whitening toothpastes.


Gum disease is a bacterial immune response of the supporting tissues around teeth (gums, ligament, bone and root) which results in the gum pulling away from teeth and exposing the dentine and root surfaces of teeth.


Over-brushing teeth by ‘scrubbing’ teeth or using a toothbrush that is too hard causes repetitive longterm damage to the teeth and gums.


This incorrect toothbrushing technique will result in gum recession exposing the root surface of the tooth and also can strip the enamel at the gum line away.


Teeth clenching and grinding is subconscious habit that is very common both during the day and at night.


As the teeth over-work the biting surfaces wear down and the enamel is lost leaving the soft dentine exposed.


The enamel can also flex off at the gum line and cracks can develop through the tooth, all causing sensitivity.


Acidic foods and drinks slow dissolve the hard enamel layer exposing the dentine of the tooth.


Once exposed the dentine is very sensitive to anything acidic as it shoots down the tubules and stimulates the nerve.


It takes the mouth 2 hours to recover from an acidic attack and frequent consumption of these products mean the enamel will be constantly washing away and the teeth also at risk of developing decay.


Acid reflux is a condition where acid from the stomach comes up into the mouth and dissolves away the enamel.


This can also be ‘silent’ where people are unaware that it is happening.


But what if it is just one sensitive tooth? 


A single tooth that is persistently sensitive can be associated with a more serious dental problem.


The sensitivity might start similar to what is described above but then increases to pain.


Decay, broken, cracked or infected teeth can all present initially as sensitivity.


Book an appointment with your dentist to determine the cause of your sensitivity, resolve the sensitivity or pain and reduce the possibility of more complicated or extensive treatment.


Does sensitive toothpaste actually work?


Sensitive toothpaste contains special minerals that ‘block’ the open exposed dentine tubules when which can reduce the stimulation of the nerve.


Fluoride and other mineral treatments can also be used to treat sensitive areas.


If your teeth are sensitive because of a more major underlying dental problem such as decay, infected or cracked teeth, sensitive toothpaste won’t be effective.


Hopefully these tips will help to keep your teeth in great condition, but we all know that problems can happen even the best circumstances, so if that is the case, please don’t hesitate to Get in touch with us to make an appointment at Smith Street Dental Practice!


Article by Dr Stephanie Shields


Dr Stephanie Shields Dentist Dr Stephanie Shields – Dentist Smith Street Dental Clinic Darwin.

Dr Stephanie Shields is originally from Brisbane and moved to the Top End in January 2015

to work at both Smith Street Dental Practice and Humpty Doo Dental.

She completed her dental training in 2012 at Griffith University Gold Coast and worked for two years at a family practice in Brisbane

Leave a Reply