Sensitive teeth can cause a mild sensation of tingling and discomfort, or sharp, shooting pain.

The pain is usually not constant. It occurs when you eat or drink something that is cold or hot, sweet or sour. Pain that is severe or persistent often signals a more serious problem that requires immediate intervention by your dentist.

Sensitive teeth can cause a great deal of discomfort and may require special treatment with desensitizing toothpaste or mouthwash. The discomfort of sensitive teeth is caused by microscopic holes in the exposed dentin of worn teeth or tooth roots. These holes (or openings) develop into small but troublesome tunnels called tubules and transmit temperature extremes or irritants to the nerve of the tooth.

Healthy normal teeth are protected by the gums and the tooth’s hard enamel. Age, injury or gum disease can expose the dentin and result in sensitivity.

The specific conditions and events that can cause sensitive teeth include:
– Chipped or fractured teeth
– Gums that have receded due to disease or improper brushing
– Grinding of the teeth during sleep or clenching due to tension
– Progressive changes due to age

Treatment for sensitive teeth may include:
– Brushing gently with a soft-bristled brush
– Use of special desensitizing tooth paste
– Dentist-recommended fluoride rinse or desensitizing gel

Sensitive teeth may require several weeks to respond to the above measures. Until treatment reduces sensitivity, avoid hot or cold beverages and irritants such as very sweet or very sour foods. Follow the recommendations of your dentist for best results. Even after the pain disappears, it is important to continue treatment so that sensitivity of the teeth does not return.

Following the dentist’s recommendations for oral hygiene and dental care will help to reduce the likelihood of developing sensitive teeth. Once the problem arises, the dentist can help the patient restore near-normal function and maintain healthy teeth.

Prevention is, of course, the best cure. Avoid actions that may cause chipped or broken teeth, such as chewing ice or hard candy. Brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and floss daily. If engaging in sports, use a dentist-prescribed tooth guard. These and other techniques recommended by your dentist will help to prevent and diminish sensitive teeth.