What is tooth sensitivity?

Do you experience a sharp, stabbing pain in your teeth when you eat hot or cold foods? It may be tooth sensitivity.


Tooth sensitivity: a common problem

If you have already felt sharp, stabbing tooth pain in specific situations, it could very well be tooth sensitivity. Of course, an oral examination is necessary to confirm it.

Tooth sensitivity can occur at any age, but it is more frequent in people between the ages of 20 and 50. It is estimated that it affects one out of three Canadians.

Tooth sensitivity, also called dentin hypersensitivity (or dentinal), is often due to receding gums which expose the lower part of the tooth and no longer completely protect the dentin. Dentin is the sensitive layer located under the tooth's enamel. This problem can also be caused by enamel wear which exposes the dentin. The following factors, among others, can cause contact with the dentin which activates nerve endings, resulting in pain:

  • eating or drinking hot, cold, sweet, spicy or acidic foods or drinks
  • brushing your teeth
  • inhaling cool or cold air
  • flossing, and
  • touching the tooth area

Tooth sensitivity can develop suddenly or gradually over time, but in most cases, it indicates the presence of some kind of problem. Although it may cause only mild discomfort, tooth sensitivity can cause significant discomfort to sufferers. Some people mistakenly believe that it is normal to experience tooth sensitivity (with age, for example) and therefore do not seek a solution to their problem.



Tooth sensitivity can have various causes, including the following:

  • Consuming acidic foods and drinks.Some of them may contribute to a chemical process that demineralizes the tooth's enamel. This is the case, for example, with soft drinks, as well as citrus and citrus juice.
  • Gum disease. Gingivitis and periodontitis, for example, are diseases that can cause gums to recede, called gingival recession. The tooth, more specifically, the dentin, then becomes exposed.
  • Excessive pressure applied during brushing, overly frequent brushing or the use of a hard-bristled toothbrush can wear enamel over time and damage gums.
  • Tooth whitening.Tooth sensitivity may be felt during or after a teeth whitening treatment. This effect is usually transient.
  • Professional scaling.Scaling and other dental procedures (i.e. the placing of a filling or orthodontic appliance) can cause temporary tooth sensitivity.
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism).People who grind their teeth while they sleep have a higher risk of tooth sensitivity. Some of them will feel its effects especially upon awakening.

Piercings on the tongue or lip are also a possible cause. They can damage the teeth or gums by rubbing, which can cause tooth sensitivity.

Keep in mind that other dental or health problems can cause pain, such as:

  • cavities or a broken tooth
  • an infection inside the mouth
  • problems with an old filling
  • an improper bite
  • poorly fitted dentures
  • canker sores, and
  • a sinus infection (sinusitis) or ear infection (otitis)

Other treatments are only available through dentists. Therefore, see your dentist regularly to keep your teeth and mouth healthy.

Remember that a thorough dental examination will allow your dentist to determine the cause of your mouth or teeth pain. Based on this, they will establish an appropriate action plan that will restore your smile.

Tooth sensitivity is often indicative of an underlying cause that needs to be treated. However, prevention and the adoption of healthy habits can help limit it.


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What is tooth sensitivity?

Do you experience a sharp, stabbing pain in your teeth when you eat hot or cold foods? It may be tooth sensitivity.
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