How to Prevent Tooth Sensitivity (Causes & Treatments)

Woman getting her teeth checked by a dentist

Tooth sensitivity is a common issue among dental patients. It can, unfortunately, be quite uncomfortable, which is why it is important to book regular visits with your dentist.   

What is tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity, often referred to as dentin hypersensitivity, is a condition in which a person feels a sharp pain in their teeth as a response to certain triggers. Common triggers may include hot or cold temperatures and sweet or spicy foods. 

The cause, intensity, and duration of your sensitivity will determine the optimal treatment for your teeth.

Symptoms of tooth sensitivity

Patients typically become aware of their tooth sensitivity after experiencing sharp bouts of pain or discomfort after being exposed to a triggering stimulus, which can vary between individuals. 

The most common triggers are

  • Hot or cold foods and beverages
  • Cold air
  • Sweet, spicy, and acidic foods or beverages
  • Cold water 
  • Pressure from regular brushing and flossing
  • Alcohol-based mouthwash

Sensitivity to hot and cold foods could potentially be a sign of a cavity, so it is vital to book an appointment as soon as possible with a private dentist in Derby for a dental check-up. 

Causes of sensitivity in teeth

There is a range of conditions that cause tooth sensitivity, such as improper dental hygiene, trauma, a harmful diet, or genetics. 

Common causes are:

  • Thin enamel layer due to genetics 

The thinner your enamel is, the more sensitive your teeth are to common triggers like acidic foods. Some people have naturally thinner enamel. 

Acidic foods and drinks eat away at the protective enamel layer leaving teeth prone to sensitivity. 

Acidic foods include tomatoes and pickled products. Beverages like coffee, sports drinks, orange juice, sodas, and wine are also highly acidic and should only be consumed occasionally.   

  • Brushing your teeth too aggressively with a hard-bristled toothbrush 

If you brush too hard, you will wear your enamel down, effectively exposing deeper layers of your teeth with higher grades of sensitivity. 

  • Progressed tooth decay and cavities

When your teeth decay, the layers of the teeth start to dissipate, slowly exposing the nerves and blood vessels housed within the teeth. 

  • Injuries, cracks or holes in your teeth

Anytime deeper parts or layers of any given tooth is exposed, there will be an increase in sensitivity. That is why it is important to get any cracks or holes in your tooth’s surface filled as soon as possible. 

If your sensitivity is a result of injured teeth, the discomfort will be localized to the one or multiple teeth with injuries. 

  • Enamel erosion

Erosion can be caused by a multitude of factors including frequent consumption of food high in sugar or acidity, age, acid reflux, and teeth grinding. 

As your enamel wears down over time, your teeth are no longer protected, and you are more likely to experience sensitivity when eating or drinking. 

  • Gum recession (caused by gum disease)

If gums start to recede due to untreated gum disease, more of your tooth will become exposed, including the sensitive root structure. 

Available treatments for sensitivity – Home remedies and dental treatments

Fortunately, most bouts of tooth sensitivity can be taken care of at home with just a few changes to your oral hygiene routine. 

Home remedies:

  • Change to a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Purchase a sensitivity-friendly toothpaste and mouthwash.
  • Adjust your diet, so it is free from common sensitivity triggers. 

Dental treatments in the practice:

  • Prescription toothpaste and mouthwash.
  • Fluoride gels. 
  • High potency desensitizing agents
  • Crowns, fillings or sealants (when sensitivity is caused by a tooth injury)
  • Root canals.

If your dental sensitivity is caused by an underlying health issue like an acid reflux disorder, you will first need treatment for that condition. 

Family brushing teeth

How to prevent sensitivity

Whether or not you have experienced tooth sensitivity before, it is wise to take preventative steps. Many preventative strategies don’t require any major lifestyle changes, so there is no reason not to adopt them. 

  • Always use a soft toothbrush and brush gently.
  • Use dental hygiene products created specifically with tooth sensitivity. 
  • Take care of your gums by flossing and using mouthwash to prevent gum recession. 
  • Rinse your mouth with lukewarm water after consuming triggering foods.
  • Visit your dentist, biannually.
  • Wear a nightguard if you grind your teeth.
  • Stop using whitening treatments until your sensitivity has been diagnosed and is under control. 
  • Don’t chew on ice.

Tooth sensitivity is a common dental condition and is generally not a reason to worry. However, it can be surprisingly uncomfortable, and, understandably, you wish to get the symptoms as well as any underlying conditions under control immediately. Under the supervision of your dentist, using a combination of at-home and in-office strategies can help reduce your sensitivity, so you can enjoy your favorite foods and beverages.

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