Tooth Sensitivity

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Deneka Davis
  • 374th Dental Squadron
Imagine, you are sitting down about to eat a bowl of ice cream that you have been craving all day.  When you take that first spoonful into your mouth, you feel the worst pain imaginable.  This could be due to the fact that you may have sensitive teeth. 

Sensitivity can result when the dentin is exposed.  Dentin is the second layer of the teeth below the white part of your teeth, the enamel.  Dentin has tiny tubes that lead to the tooth's nerve center, also called the pulp.  When the tubes are exposed, the sensation of hot and cold, or even sweet food can reach the nerve in the tooth, which can result in pain.

Two common causes of sensitive teeth are brushing too hard and grinding your teeth.  These habits can contribute to wearing down of the enamel, which exposes the dentin.  Acidic foods like citrus fruits can have the same effect.  In addition, teeth whitening products can make the teeth extremely sensitive, so talk with your oral care provider before starting any bleaching regimen.  Fortunately, there are remedies and treatments that can help to alleviate or reduce the symptoms of sensitivity. 

Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly is one way to reduce tooth sensitivity.  Be sure to brush all parts of the teeth and gums using gentle, circular strokes and a soft bristle toothbrush. Medium and hard bristle toothbrushes can wear down the enamel.  You can also use desensitizing toothpaste and a fluoride rinse that can be purchased over the counter. Fluoride rinses are to be used once per day, preferably at night before bed.  One tip you can try is to spread a thin layer of sensitive teeth toothpaste on the affected areas with your finger or a Q-tip before going to bed. 

If you still feel sensitivity, talk to your dentist.  There may be some procedures that the dentist can perform to help with the sensitivity such as white fillings, fluoride varnishes or dentin sealers that are placed or applied over any exposed root surface.  If your case is too extreme and it does not resolve or decrease, your dentist may recommend endodontic treatment or a root canal to alleviate the problem. 

If you have any questions or have would like more information about this topic, please visit the American Dental Association website at  You may also write the American Dental Association at 211 East Chicago Ave Chicago, IL 60611-2678, or call 312-440-2500.