My teeth are sensitive

Sensitive teeth? You’re not alone. At least 40 million adults in the United States experience some degree of tooth sensitivity during their lifetime.


Why do I have sensitive teeth?

The loss of enamel, the hard outer covering of the tooth, either by decay, wear (such as from using a hard toothbrush) or trauma, leaves part of the tooth unprotected causing pain when the tooth is exposed to hot, cold, acidic or sweet foods or beverages, cold air, pressure or even when brushing.

The most common cause is gum recession that exposes the tooth root, which can be very sensitive, particularly to cold. Teeth grinding may also cause one or many teeth to develop sensitivity. In addition, it is not uncommon for sensitivity following dental procedures such as fillings or tooth bleaching, but it will usually stop on its own after a short time. If you are still experiencing sensitivity after a week or two, check back with your dentist.


How can I treat tooth sensitivity?

  • Special toothpastes for sensitive teeth with exposed root surfaces.  Experience will vary for each person, but it typically takes regular use of desensitizing toothpaste over two or more weeks before experiencing effective relief.
  • In-office treatment. Your dentist may recommend an in-office treatment with fluoride gels or other desensitizing agents.
  • Prescription fluoride. Your dentist may recommend a prescription fluoride gel or over-the-counter rinse, paste or gel.
  • Plastic coating. Sometimes it is necessary to place a plastic coating or even a filling in the area that is causing the sensitivity. 
  • Surgery. If the sensitivity is coming from root surfaces that were exposed due to gum recession, your dentist may recommend a surgical procedure that re-covers the exposed roots with gum tissue.
  • Mouthguard. If you have sensitivity due to tooth grinding, your dentist may recommend a mouthguard to wear at night to prevent you from further grinding away your protective enamel.


Taking care of your teeth is important to not only avoid tooth sensitivity problems, but to avoid making existing problems worse. Ask your dentist or hygienist how to brush and floss correctly, and always use a soft toothbrush.

If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, consult with your dentist on the cause and available treatment options.


What Causes Sensitive Teeth.

Diagnosis and treatment of dentinal hypersensitivity. Porto IC, Andrade AK, and Montes MA. 2009. J. Oral Sc. Vol.51,No.3,323-332C

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