Do you find yourself shying away from eating something cold like ice cream or gelato or drinking something hot like coffee or hot tea? Is it because your teeth have become sensitive and you feel pain and discomfort when these foods and drinks come in contact with them? Perhaps even activities like brushing with cold water causes a sharp and short-lasting pain in your teeth. This type of pain can be a sign of a cavity or a chipped tooth. But, it can also be an indication that you have sensitive teeth.

What causes tooth sensitivity and what can you do about it? At Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry, we see a lot of patients who have sensitive teeth. As a result, we are quite knowledgeable about diagnosing the causes for yours. In this article, we provide some information about the different causes for tooth sensitivity and possible solutions.

Understanding Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity, also known as “dentin sensitivity,” is pain or discomfort in the teeth as a response to certain stimuli such as hot or cold temperatures. Sensitivity occurs when the underlying layer of your teeth, the dentin, becomes exposed due to wear and tear and/or gum recession. The roots of teeth are not covered by hard enamel and they contain thousands of tiny tubules leading to the center of the tooth, the pulp. When these tubules are exposed, stimuli like hot, cold, or sweet food can reach the nerve in the tooth and you feel pain as a result.

The most common triggers for pain and discomfort include:

  • Hot foods and beverages
  • Cold foods and beverages
  • Cold air
  • Sweet foods and beverages
  • Acidic foods and beverages
  • Cold water
  • Brushing or flossing teeth
  • Alcohol-based mouth rinses

Sometimes sensitive teeth can be temporary or chronic, it may affect one tooth, several teeth, or all the teeth. There can be a number of different causes.

Causes of Sensitive Teeth

There are many factors that can lead to developing sensitive teeth. Here are some of the most common:

Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard

If you brush your teeth with a hard-bristled brush and use excessive force, over time you can wear down the enamel and cause the dentin to be exposed. You can also cause your gums to recede, pull away from, the teeth. 

Grinding Your Teeth

Many people have the tendency to grind their teeth, especially at night. If you grind your teeth, it can cause several significant changes to your teeth, with tooth sensitivity being one.

Gum Recession

Receding gums can be caused by thin gum tissue or as a result of periodontal disease. 

Gum Disease

Periodontal disease can cause sensitivity because of the loss of supporting ligaments in the gum that ultimately exposes the tooth root.

Cracked Teeth

Chipped or broken teeth can fill with bacteria due to plaque that then enters the pulp, causing inflammation.

Tooth Whitening Products

Tooth whitening products can contribute to tooth sensitivity due to containing mild abrasives.

Acidic Foods

Consuming acidic foods regularly can cause tooth enamel to erode. Foods such as lemons, tomatoes, pickles, and tea can cause enamel erosion.

Plaque Buildup

Plaque on the root surfaces can cause sensitivity.


Mouthwashes that contain acids can make teeth sensitivity worse if you have exposed dentin.

Dental Procedures

Sometimes you can get sensitive after dental procedures like fillings, teeth cleanings, and dental restoration procedures

Solutions to Sensitive Teeth

The appropriate solution to your sensitive teeth depends on the cause. If you have sensitivity that lingers, schedule an appointment with a dental professional who can properly diagnose the cause and recommend the treatment.

Here are some ways you can reduce tooth sensitivity that is due to normal wear and tear:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene by using proper brushing and flossing techniques. 
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to incur less tooth abrasion and irritation to your gums.
  • Use desensitizing toothpaste regularly to decrease sensitivity.
  • Use fluoridated dental products like a rinse to decrease sensitivity.
  • Avoid grinding your teeth by using a mouth guard at night.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for routine exams, cleanings, and fluoride treatments.

Contact Us Today If You Are Experiencing Tooth Sensitivity

If you are having tooth sensitivity when you are exposed to hot, cold, or acidic foods and beverages, contact us today. Our experienced team of dental professionals knows how to properly diagnose and recommend treatment. Call us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.