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Tooth Sensitivity - Causes, Treatment and Home remedies

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Tooth Sensitivity - Causes, Treatment and Home remedies

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Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common dental problems experienced by everyone at some stage of life. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Chithranjali Ravichandran

Published At April 24, 2017
Reviewed AtApril 25, 2024


Tooth sensitivity, termed dentinal hypersensitivity, causes short-lasting sharp pain in a single tooth or multiple teeth. It occurs when teeth come in contact with hot, cold, sweet, and acidic foods or due to exposure of teeth to air.

Tooth sensitivity causes,

  1. Teeth sensitivity can cause serious discomfort and inability to eat or drink due to short bouts of sharp pain.

  2. It occurs when the top layer of teeth (enamel) wears off due to many causes, leading to exposure of the inner softer and sensitive layer (dentin).

  3. It affects almost two to three people out of ten individuals.

  4. The age group that gets affected is young adults to middle-aged people.

  5. Many treatment modalities and remedies can help in relieving sensitivity.

What Is Meant by Teeth Sensitivity?

Teeth sensitivity is usually caused by exposure to the underlying layer of dentin. This condition can be caused due to tooth erosion or gum recession. The teeth roots contain many tubules leading to the center of the tooth, but these are not covered by enamel. These tubules allow stimuli like cold, heat, etc, to reach the nerve present in the pulp of the tooth. This can result in sensitivity and pain. In some cases, a cracked tooth or decayed tooth can result in tooth sensitivity.

What Are the Causes of Tooth Sensitivity?

  • Vigorous Brushing: If the person has a habit of brushing the teeth with a lot of pressure, then they may tend to wear off the enamel layer, which will make the teeth sensitive. Other reasons can be using a very hard toothbrush, brushing teeth for long durations, and long-term use of whitening toothpaste as they have more abrasives, which cause dental abrasion.

  • Teeth Grinding or Bruxism: The constant grinding action of teeth causes loss of the enamel layer, exposing the inner sensitive layer that is dentin.

  • Acidic and Citrus Food: Individuals who take ample amounts of citrus and acidic foods like soft drinks, sauces, pickles, etc., tend to lose more minerals from their teeth, making them sensitive.

  • Gum Diseases: If the person has a deep gum infection, then it can cause gum recession and root surface exposure, which will make the teeth sensitive.

  • Tooth Infection and Fracture: If the person has deep decay with exposed nerves or tooth fractures due to sudden heavy biting forces or trauma, then these conditions can make the teeth sensitive.

  • Dental Treatment: Teeth can become sensitive after an orthodontic treatment, root canal treatment, broken fillings, or crown placement. But these are temporary.

  • Systemic Conditions: Certain medical conditions like acid reflux, peptic ulcers, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia can cause teeth sensitivity by dental erosion.

  • Teeth Whitening Products: Teeth whitening products highly contribute to the sensitivity of the teeth.

  • Mouthwashes: Some of the over-the-counter mouthwashes contain high levels of acid, which can worsen tooth sensitivity if the person has an exposed dentin. The acid present can result in further damage to the dentin.

What Are the Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity?

  • Symptoms of dental hypersensitivity include short bouts of sudden pain on exposure to hot, cold, acidic, and sweet foods, as well as fluids. It subsides once the irritant is removed.

Does Tooth Sensitivity Mean Infection?

It does not indicate infection all the time. Tooth sensitivity can be due to tooth erosion, which involves wear and tear or gum recession. But sometimes tooth sensitivity can be an indication of a cracked or infected tooth. Infected tooth pain usually will be dull and achy or sharp and throbbing.

What Are the Treatment Options for Tooth Sensitivity?

  • Desensitizing Toothpaste: For mild to moderate tooth sensitivity, individuals are advised to apply anti-sensitivity toothpaste. They work by closing or occluding the dentinal tubules. Applying the paste over the teeth and leaving it for about 30 seconds and then brushing the teeth will help in reducing sensitivity.

  • Other Agents: Certain other agents that can assist in occluding the dentinal tubules are fluoride varnish and dentine adhesives. If sensitivity does not resolve with desensitizing toothpaste, then other in-office treatment techniques are used.

  • Dental Cement: If there is any cavity or loss of tooth structure, then dental cement like glass ionomer cement, composite resins, etc., can be used. It will relieve the sensitivity and repair the tooth defect.

  • Lasers: CO2 laser and Nd: YAG lasers can be used if other management techniques do not work.

  • Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene: Brushing and flossing should be done properly and regularly.

  • Use Soft-Bristled Toothbrush: By using this kind of toothbrush, abrasion caused by the toothbrush can be reduced, and the gums are less irritated.

  • Intake of Food: Frequent intake of acid-rich food can dissolve the enamel surface of the tooth and can result in exposure to dentin, causing sensitivity.

  • Use of Fluoride-Containing Dental Products: The use of fluoridated mouth washes can reduce the chance of sensitivity.

  • Avoiding Teeth Grinding: Grinding and clenching of teeth can result in sensitivity. So, in such cases, a mouthguard can be used.

Home Remedies

Following home remedies can provide some relief from mild tooth sensitivity, although if there is some underlying pathology, then professional advice and treatment are mandatory.

  1. Mix a tablespoon of mustard oil and rock salt and apply this gently over the teeth. Leave it for a minute, and then rinse off.

  2. Should gargle with warm saline solution twice a day.

What Are the Prevention Methods for Tooth Sensitivity?

  1. Should not brush the teeth for more than two minutes. Hold the brush in a pen grip to avoid excessive pressure application, and use a soft toothbrush only.

  2. Limit the intake of soft drinks, avoid acidic foods, and excessive use of mouthwash. Drink plenty of water.

  3. If the person has a teeth-grinding or clenching habit, consult the dentist and get a mouth guard made.

  4. If any dental problem is present, get it treated as early as possible.

  5. If a person has any underlying pathology like acid reflux, then treatment of the same should be done.

When to See the Doctor?

The person should consult the dentist if they have sensitivity to

  • Cold.

  • Heat.

  • Sweets.


Teeth sensitivity is caused by worn teeth, decay, or exposure to enamel or tooth roots. Sensitivity occurs when hot, cold, sweet drinks and food are consumed. Pain also occurs sometimes along with sensitive teeth, which can be sharp. Tooth sensitivity can be managed by including fluoride, desensitizing toothpaste, and dental bonding.

Frequently Asked Questions


How do you stop pain radiating from sensitive teeth?

Some tips to prevent sensitive teeth from hurting are:
- Use desensitizing toothpaste.
- Avoid drinking aerated drinks and eating acidic food.
- Use fluoridated mouthwash.
- Get all tooth decay filled.
- Get a mouth guard to prevent night grinding.
- For severely decayed teeth, go for root canal treatment.


How does a sensitive tooth feel like?

A sensitive tooth will give sharp and sudden flashes of pain when exposed to cold, sweet, air, acidic, or hot food items.


Is cavity always the cause for tooth sensitivity?

No, a cavity is one of the many causes of tooth sensitivity. The other causes include:
- Brushing your teeth vigorously.
- Using a hard toothbrush.
- Bruxism (grinding your teeth at night).
- Consuming acidic foods and beverages.


What are the ways to strengthen sensitive teeth?

Unfortunately, once the enamel from the tooth is lost, you cannot regrow it, but some tips to strengthen your teeth are:
- Avoid eating and drinking acidic beverages.
- Use toothpaste and mouthwash containing fluoride.
- Do not apply unnecessary force to clean your teeth.
- Use a soft brush.


What are the types of tooth sensitivity?

The types of tooth sensitivity are based on the symptoms you experience. The types are:
- Sensitivity to cold and hot foods.
- Sensitivity while biting or chewing.
- Dull ache with sensitivity.
- Constant and severe pain with sensitivity.


How long does sensitivity last in a tooth?

Your tooth will be sensitive unless you get the underlying cause treated. If the sensitivity is after getting a tooth filled or after getting your tooth cleaned, the sensitivity will usually go away after 4 to 6 weeks.


Does washing your mouth with salt water help sensitive teeth?

Washing your mouth with salt mixed with lukewarm water helps reduce pain and tooth sensitivity. Salt helps reduce inflammation and is an effective antiseptic.


How can a dentist help treat sensitive teeth?

Your dentist might help you by applying a fluoride gel or stronger desensitizing topical agents.


How to naturally desensitize teeth?

Some natural remedies for sensitive teeth are desensitizing toothpaste, saltwater mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide mouth rinse, honey and warm water, and by applying turmeric on teeth.
Dr. Honey Nandwani
Dr. Honey Nandwani



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