What causes sensitive teeth and what can help

Captain Aquafresh eating ice cream.

Do you get a sharp pain in your teeth from biting into ice cream? How about a slight twinge from hot coffee? Then chances are you have sensitive teeth. And it’s an annoyance many people can relate to.

Why are my teeth so sensitive?

To answer that, we’ll need to break down what teeth are made of. It starts with mighty enamel, the hardest substance in your body. This protects the crowns, or tops of your teeth. Underneath lies dentine, a softer part of the tooth that contains tiny tubules. These hollow canals can carry sensations to the nerves hidden below the dentine, which helps our teeth feel whatever is in our mouth.

This all works in perfect balance. But if your dentine loses its protective covering, the tubules get exposed, letting hot, cold, acidic, or sugary foods stimulate your nerves. This can cause discomfort and pain that you’d rather avoid.

What causes my sensitivity?

Sensitivity is caused by your tooth dentine becoming exposed. Some common reasons for this are:

  • Acidic foods that can wear away enamel near the gum line where it's thinnest
  • Aggressive brushing causing your gums to pull back from the teeth
  • Grinding your teeth (mostly happens at night so you may not realise you’re doing it)
  • Tooth-whitening products (bleaching treatments)
  • Chipped or broken teeth that need dental work
  • Cavities and tooth decay 
  • Or simply just wear and tear over time

If you start to experience sensitive teeth, make sure to see your dentist to understand why it’s happened and how it can be treated.


Captain Aquafresh feeling and looking uncomfortable.

Help starts with your dental routine

If you don’t like the idea of avoiding certain types of food, there are other things you can try. A soft bristled toothbrush for example will help put less pressure on your teeth, along with a sensitive toothpaste, that can block the tubules or calm the nerves. Just make sure not to brush too hard and keep up with a twice-daily routine.

There’s no big secret to helping sensitive teeth. Keep to your daily brushing routine. Don’t brush too hard. Try to avoid any food or drinks that you know cause you pain. And see your dentist regularly to check no other treatment is required.

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