Having sensitive teeth can mean anything from getting a mild twinge to having severe discomfort that can last for several hours. It can also be an early warning sign of more serious dental problems.

Possible causes include:

  • Worn tooth enamel due to dental erosion
  • Tooth decay
  • Fractured fillings
  • Exposed dentine/root surface
  • Gum disease

A common cause of sensitivity is toothbrush abrasion. This is caused by brushing too hard, brushing from side to side in a sawing motion or by using a hard bristled brush. These can lead to the enamel being worn away, particularly where the teeth meet the gums. The exposed dentine may become sensitive.

To prevent toothbrush abrasion, brush with a soft or medium bristled brush in small circular movements without scrubbing.

Dental Erosion; this is the loss of tooth enamel caused by attacks of acid from acidic drinks and foods i.e. fizzy drinks, sports drinks and juices.

If the enamel is worn away, the dentine underneath is exposed which may lead to sensitivity.

Gum recession: gums may naturally shrink back over time, and the roots will become exposed and can become sensitive. Root surfaces do not have an enamel layer to protect them.

Treatment: Sensitive teeth can be treated by using desensitizing toothpaste. This contains compounds that block the transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve. It usually requires several applications before the sensitivity is reduced. You may need to continue using sensitive toothpaste long-term. Please see you dentist if symptoms of sensitivity persist.