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Sensitive Teeth Explained by Subiton Dentist

16 July 2012

Do You Suffer From Painful Teeth Due to Tooth Sensitivity?

Do your teeth twinge when you eat cold foods like ice cream or drink hot tea? Do you suffer short, sharp pain due to tooth sensitivity? Is your sensitivity a daily problem or perhaps just an occasional annoyance? Chances are you have “dentine hypersensitivity”, another name for sensitive teeth.

Dentine hypersensitivity can occur daily or it might just be an infrequent tooth twinge. This site can help you find answers to your common questions about sensitive teeth.

Still have questions? Concerned that your sensitivity may indicate a more serious condition? Be sure to schedule an appointment as soon as possible with a dentist.

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

Dr Soltani of Surbiton Dental Practice explains that tooth sensitivity is caused by the gradual exposure of the softer part of your tooth that lies under the tooth enamel, called “dentine”.

Dentine has tiny tubes (‘tubules’) that lead to the nerve and are filled with fluid. Eating or drinking foods and drinks that are hot, cold or sweet can cause a change in fluid movement. This fluid movement causes the nerve endings to react in response, triggering a short, sharp pain.

Some of the most common causes of sensitive teeth include:


Brushing shortly after acid challenge can cause the enamel to be more easily worn away, as during this time the enamel is softened and more vulnerable. Brushing can also cause receding gums, causing further exposure of the dentine.

Gum Disease

Gum disease (also known as gingivitis) causes inflamed and sore gum tissue. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis. Periodontitis is when gum disease gets worse and damages the tissues and bone that support the teeth. One symptom of periodontitis is sensitive teeth, as the receding gums leave dentine exposed.

Teeth Grinding

If you grind your teeth when you sleep or during the day, or if you clench your teeth, you may be wearing down enamel and exposing the underlying dentine layer of your tooth.

Receding Gums

Receding gums can be caused by conditions such as gum disease, which can expose the tooth’s dentine and cause sensitivity. Brushing too vigorously can also cause receding gums.

Sensitivity Triggers

Are Your Teeth Sensitive to Hot and Cold Food and Drinks?

Are your teeth sensitive to hot or cold food or drinks? A range of things can trigger the short, sharp pain of sensitive teeth.

Not everyone will have the same triggers, but the following are the most common:

Cold food or drinks – such as ice cream, chilled drinks and ice cubes

Hot food and drinks – such as soup, coffee and tea

Cold air – breathing in cold air can cause a tooth twinge for some people

Managing Sensitivity

If your teeth are sensitive, there are several simple but important steps you can take today to manage sensitive teeth and to help stop them from getting worse.

  • Practice good oral hygiene, including proper brushing and flossing, to help prevent conditions such as gum disease, which can cause receding gums.
  • Use a toothpaste specially formulated to treat the pain of sensitive teeth.
  • Don’t brush too hard.
  • Use a soft toothbrush, preferably one designed especially for sensitive teeth.
  • Avoid acidic foods that can wear away tooth enamel, such as wine, vinegar salad dressings and soft drinks.
  • Avoid grinding your teeth or clenching during the day. Ask your dentist about a mouth guard for night time use.
  • See your dentist for regular checkups, dental care recommendations and advice for your sensitive teeth.

Contact Surbiton Smile Centre ® today

Please get in touch if you are concerned about any aspect of your dental health. We will treat you fairly and honestly - and we look forward to being able to help you.

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