What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Dentinal hypersensitivity, or tooth sensitivity, is a common dental problem. It’s a condition that can develop over time, as a result of common problems such as receding gums and enamel wear. Most sufferers are between 20 and 50 years old. Tooth sensitivity can start to happen when the softer, inner part of the tooth called ‘dentine’ becomes exposed. Dentine lies under the enamel and the gums.
Thousands of microscopic channels run through the dentine towards the centre of the tooth. Once the dentine is exposed, external triggers (such as a cold drink) can stimulate the tooth discomfort, resulting in the characteristic short, sharp tooth sensitivity.
Only a dentist can confirm you have dentinal hypersensitivity. If you are experiencing any dental problems, always consult your dentist for advice. If you have dentinal hypersensitivity, you can help to minimise further exposure of the dentine, care for your sensitive teeth and relieve the symptoms by making some simple changes to your daily oral care routine and dietary habits.
In this section we look at some of the main causes of sensitivity.
- Enamel wear e.g. from tooth grinding or overly frequent tooth brushing
- Gum recession e.g. from gum disease or aggressive tooth brushing
The sensitivity which can be experienced during and after professional tooth whitening (bleaching) treatments is different from dentinal hypersensitivity. See 'Do tooth whitening treatments cause sensitivity?' for more information.