Teeth sensitivity can occur when you consume hot, cold, sweet or sour foods and drinks, or even by breathing cold air. Pain can be sharp, sudden and shoot deep into tooth nerve endings. Treatments include fluoride, desensitizing toothpaste and dental bonding.
Teeth sensitivity usually occurs when the underlying layer of your teeth — the dentin — becomes exposed. This can happen due to erosion (wear and tear) and gum recession (when your gum tissue pulls away from your teeth, exposing the roots).
Teeth roots, which aren’t covered by hard enamel, contain thousands of tiny tubules leading to your tooth’s center (the pulp). These dentinal tubules (or channels) allow stimuli — for example, hot, cold or sweet food — to reach the nerve in your tooth, which results in the pain you feel.
Dental sensitivity can also be a symptom of other issues, including cavities, gum disease or a cracked tooth.
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Many factors can lead to the development of sensitive teeth, including:
Not always. Sometimes, teeth sensitivity indicates tooth erosion (wear and tear) or gum recession. But it can also mean that you have a cracked or infected tooth. Infection-related tooth pain may be dull and achy or sharp and throbbing.
If you have severe teeth sensitivity that doesn’t go away, call a dentist right away for further instructions.
Yes. In some cases, teeth sensitivity goes away on its own — especially if it’s due to a recent dental procedure, such as a filling or root canal. If you have teeth sensitivity that lingers and doesn’t go away, talk to a dentist. You might have worn enamel or exposed teeth roots. In these cases, you might need treatment to address the issue.
Treatment depends on the cause. If you develop lingering teeth sensitivity or discomfort, be sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist. They’ll need to rule out any serious conditions so they can recommend appropriate treatment.
To reduce your risk of teeth sensitivity caused by normal wear and tear:
If you still have discomfort, talk to your dentist. There are some dental procedures that may help reduce sensitivity, including the use of:
Schedule an appointment with your dentist if you have teeth sensitive to:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Several different factors can cause teeth sensitivity, including worn enamel, exposed roots, cavities, cracks and even recent dental procedures. Whether you need treatment depends on the cause. You can address mildly sensitive teeth with desensitizing toothpaste and good oral hygiene. Severe teeth sensitivity caused by gum recession, cavities or cracked teeth may require treatment. Your dentist can help determine what’s causing your sensitive teeth and recommend treatment to address the issue.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/04/2022.
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