The Cleveland Clinic

Sensitive Teeth

Tooth sensitivity is tooth discomfort in one or more teeth that is triggered by hot, cold, sweet or sour foods and drinks, or even by breathing cold air. The pain can be sharp, sudden, and shoot deep into the nerve endings of your teeth.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity occurs when the underlying layer of your teeth - the dentin - becomes exposed as a result of receding gum tissue (the protective blanket that covers the tooth roots). The roots, which are not covered by hard enamel, contain thousands of tiny tubules leading to the tooth's never center (the pulp). These dentinal tubules (or channels) allow the stimuli - for example, the hot, cold, or sweet food - to reach the nerve in your tooth, which results in the pain you feel.

There are many factors that may lead to the development of tooth sensitivity, including.

  • Brushing too hard. Over time, brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can wear down enamel and cause the dentin to be exposed. It can also cause recession of the gums (the gum tissue pulls away from the teeth).

  • Recession of the gums. As gums move away from a tooth due to conditions such as periodontal disease, the root surface becomes exposed.
  • Gum disease (gingivitis). Inflamed and sore gum tissue may cause sensitivity due to the loss of supporting ligaments, which exposes the root surface that leads directly to the nerve of the tooth.
  • Cracked teeth. Chipped or broken teeth may fill with bacteria from plaque and enter the pulp causing Inflammation.
  • Teeth grinding . grinding or clenching your teeth may wear down the enamel and expose underlying dentin.
  • Tooth whitening products or toothpaste with baking soda and peroxide. These products are major contributors to teeth sensitivity.
  • Your age. Tooth sensitivity is highest between the ages of 25 and 30.