What is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is a common dental issue that involves discomfort or pain in the teeth when encountering certain substances and temperatures. Pain caused by hot or cold foods can be a sign of a cavity but is also common in people with sensitive teeth. The pain is usually sharp and sudden but is temporary. Fortunately, sensitive teeth can be treated and the condition can improve.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

In healthy teeth, the enamel protects the softer dentin layer underneath. When the dentin, the layer below your tooth enamel, is exposed, pain and discomfort occur. Dentin is connected to your nerves, so you feel pain when it comes into contact with certain triggers.
Some people naturally have more sensitive teeth than others due to having thinner enamel. Enamel is the outer layer that protects the tooth.

In many cases, tooth enamel can wear away for the following reasons:

  • Brushing your teeth too hard, causing wear on your enamel;
  • Gum recession and inflammation that expose your roots and dentin;
  • Cracked or broken teeth can trigger sensitivity due to inflammation and even infection;
  • Teeth grinding, known as bruxism, which can damage your enamel enough to expose your dentin;
  • Consuming highly acidic foods and drinks or excessive use of acidic mouthwashes. This can damage your enamel to the point where it can’t protect your dentin;
  • Teeth whitening can cause sensitivity, but this is usually temporary;
  • Dental procedures like crown replacement and tooth restoration can cause temporary tooth sensitivity;
  • Sometimes other conditions can also lead to tooth sensitivity. For example, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) can cause acid to come up from the stomach and esophagus, wearing down the teeth over time.
  • Conditions that cause frequent vomiting, including gastroparesis and bulimia.

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