What are sensitive teeth?

Sensitive teeth are those that experience pain when they encounter hot or cold sensations. Cavities, fractures in the teeth, worn tooth enamel, cracked teeth or an exposed tooth root can all cause sensitive teeth.

Sensitive teeth means your teeth react to stimuli such as hot, cold, sweets, pressure etc. in such a way that the sensation is noticed much longer than usual.

For adults, this most often occurs if there is gum recession that exposes the root surface of the teeth or if there is a dental problem. In children, it most often signals a dental problem.

Cold sensitivity is the most common. It also has the most possible causes, and sometimes can take much trial and error to find out why the tooth is sensitive to cold.

Heat sensitivity most often signals a problem with the tooth nerve. 

Sweet sensitivity occurs when the concentration of sugar in the problem area is less than the concentration of sugar in the mouth. As the areas try to equalize the concentrations, it triggers a response in your tooth that can range from a twinge to sharp pain.

Occasional sensitivity to pressure or biting can signal a crack in your tooth that reacts when the pressure is hard enough and in the correct direction to open and close the crack. If the crack gets larger or part of the tooth breaks, biting on it can push the loose piece into your gums, causing pain. Pressure or biting sensitivity can also happen when biting down pushes the root of your tooth into an abscess or other area of infection at the end of the tooth root.

Only your dentist can determine the reason behind your tooth sensitivity, so if it persists, make an appointment with him or her.

Sensitive teeth means that your teeth or gums pick up slight variations in temperature or chemical changes in your mouth. This can be caused by eating or drinking hot or cold products. Teeth may also be sensitive to sugars common in candy or soft drinks. Teeth may also be sensitive to the touch. Talk to your dentist about ways to combat sensitivity.

Teeth that are sensitive may hurt or feel different when exposed to hot, cold, touch, or biting. Sensitive teeth should be checked by a dentist. Sensitive teeth may be the result of a cavity. Sensitive teeth can also be caused by exposed roots of teeth from receding gums or wear of the teeth from bruxism and grinding. A tooth that is sensitive to touch may be abscessed, and a tooth that is sensitive to biting may have a crack. Your dentist can best determine the cause of your sensitive teeth and offer treatment to help.

Continue Learning about Tooth Sensitivity

What can happen if I don't treat my sensitive teeth?
Dr. Supriya VermaDr. Supriya Verma
Sensitivity of teeth can be caused by many factors. Your dentist must determine the cause of sensiti...
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How can I prevent sensitive teeth?
Jerry P. Gordon, DMDJerry P. Gordon, DMD
Good home care, which includes frequent brushing and flossing of your teeth, and seeing your dentist...
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What are the symptoms of tooth sensitivity?
Symptoms of sensitive teeth are basically variations in sensation. This may involve awareness of sli...
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What causes cold sensitivity in teeth?
Rita MedwidRita Medwid
Teeth can become sensitive to cold liquids, foods, or even cold air which can become really annoying...
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.