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What Causes Sensitivity in Teeth

What is tooth sensitivity, and what is the cause behind it?

Girl holding ice cream with sensitive teeth

Tooth sensitivity is a very common condition of teeth which causes sharp pain when having foods with extreme temperatures. Initially, it starts from mild sensitivity to sweet and sour food and eventually leads to unbearable pain and permanent damages.

In clinical terms, it is called Dentinal Hypersensitivity. In India, almost 10 to 30% of the general population faces the issue of teeth sensitivity. A survey conducted by one of the leading U.S dental offices suggests that 1 out of 8 adults are a victim of tooth sensitivity.

Our tooth is basically made up of the material known as dentin. It consists of microscopic tubules each filled with very small nerve endings. Dentin which is exposed as an exterior tooth (also called the crown), is protected by a layer of enamel and the dentin which is present deep down as a root, is covered by the layer of cementum. So whenever there is a loss of one or both of these protective layers of enamel and cementum, we experience the sensitivity and pain in the tooth.

Girl brushing with sensitive tooth

There are several actions or habits that may stand as the reason for having sensitive teeth, which are as follows:

  1. Brushing too hard: Using hard-bristled toothbrushes or brushing in a hard manner is one of the major causes behind the loss of protective layers of our teeth. This exposes the dentin to the food we eat, leading to tooth sensitivity.

  2. The habit of teeth grinding: Enamel is the strongest substance in our body but the habit of grinding the teeth leads to severe damage to the teeth.

  3. Having acidic foods: Consumption of acidic foods on a regular basis or having acidic beverages in excess results in tooth erosion, which in turn causes sensitivity and pain to build up in the teeth.

  4. Gum disease: Most of the time if one is suffering from periodontal disease (gum disease), it is followed by a detachment of the gums from its natural state. Aging is also the reason behind the receding of the gums. Eventually, this results in tooth sensitivity.

  5. Cracked tooth: Broken or cracked tooth exposes the dentin of one’s tooth. It can get filled with bacteria and cause infection in the pulp of the tooth, contributing to tooth sensitivity.

  6. Dental procedures: Some of the dental procedures like cleaning, bleaching, etc. may bring sensitivity to your tooth. But do remember, this is temporary and the pain resulting from the same reduces within a few days.

  7. Excessive plaque: Poor oral hygiene leads to excessive accumulation of plaques in between teeth. This causes wear and tear of enamel. Thus, professional cleaning, or scaling of teeth by dentists, once every six months, helps in maintaining healthy teeth and gums.

  8. Aging: As we age a certain amount of attrition happens with our teeth from all sides of a tooth. This can also be a reason for tooth sensitivity.

  9. Cavities: Having cavities in teeth exposes the dentin and causes tooth sensitivity.

If you're still curious about tooth sensitivity, have a look at our next blog detailing on how to look out for sensitive teeth, the prevention, and possible cure for the same.

Dr. Suwarna Upare recommends consulting your dentist on a regular basis to keep an eye on one's oral health.

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