May 31, 2019

If you take a walk down any modern oral care aisle, you’re likely to find a wide variety of products designed specifically for people with sensitive teeth. That’s because this is an incredibly common condition, with as many as 1 in 8 people suffering from tooth sensitivity.

Although there are various types and levels of sensitivity, it tends to be most noticeable when the teeth are exposed to something hotter or colder than normal, something sweeter or more sour than normal, or if there are deep cavities or exposed root surfaces present. This means that eating and drinking normally can be really uncomfortable, and frustrating, too!

At Scott Edwards Cosmetic And Family Dentistry, our goal is to give every patient a smile that looks great and feels great, too. If you suffer from sensitive teeth, keep reading below for more information on the underlying causes, triggers, and a few helpful suggestions that can offer you some much-needed relief!

What causes sensitivity in the teeth?

Tooth sensitivity occurs when the layer of a tooth underneath the enamel (called the dentin) or the layer covering the root (called cementum) is exposed along the gum line due to receding gums.

In healthy teeth, the enamel protects the underlying layer of dentin, which is softer than enamel, and the tooth roots are protected by gums. If the enamel is worn down or if the gum line has receded, dentin can be exposed, triggering pain that is usually sudden, sharp, and shooting. Exposed areas are often impacted by hot and cold food or liquid, and sometimes food that is sweet or spicy.

There are many factors that can contribute to tooth sensitivity, including:

Overzealous brushing

You really can have too much of a good thing! Brushing too vigorously can wear down gum tissue over time, causing the gum line to recede. This reveals the more porous root surfaces and areas of the teeth that are not normally exposed. This is actually the most common cause of tooth sensitivity, and it can sometimes cause serious pain.

Tooth grinding

If you grind your teeth when you’re sleeping, or when you are stressed, it can wear away the enamel more quickly, exposing the dentin.

Gum disease

One symptom of gingivitis and other forms of gum disease is inflammation in the gum tissues. This can cause the tissue to pull away from the tooth, leaving vulnerable areas exposed.

Thinning tooth enamel

Enamel is what helps keep the teeth strong. Improper brushing and flossing techniques and poor oral hygiene can thin the enamel, weakening your teeth and leaving them more susceptible to exposure and sensitivity.


Some people may experience tooth sensitivity when biting down or chewing after having a cavity filled. Tooth decay irritates the tooth, and the filling procedure can lead to further sensitivity. This is usually temporary, but if it persists, the tooth may need further attention, including a bite adjustment, replacement filling, or root canal.

Whitening treatments

Teeth-whitening treatments can be done in a dentist’s office or at home using over-the-counter products. These treatments often contain harsh chemicals that are great for removing stains, but unfortunately, they can also remove enamel.

If you’ve noticed any signs or symptoms of tooth sensitivity, we encourage you to contact our Midtown or East Memphisoffice to schedule an appointment for a proper assessment of the situation.

Dr. Edwards talking with a patient

Caring for your sensitive teeth

If you have sensitive teeth, it can be tempting to avoid brushing thoroughly and rinsing your mouth, since both can irritate existing sensitivity. However, it’s important that you don’t neglect your daily dental hygiene routine! Whatever the root cause of your sensitivity is, taking good care of your teeth and gums is the first line of defense against oral issues of any kind.

Failure to keep your teeth clean can lead to worn enamel or sensitivity around the gum line, but being vigilant about proper brushing and flossing helps prevent the buildup of tartar and bacteria. This reduces the risk of exposed nerves, which is a common source of sensitivity. There are a number of steps you can take to reestablish or maintain your dental hygiene routine, which in turn will help prevent and relieve tooth sensitivity, including:

  • using a soft-bristled toothbrush to help prevent gum loss
  • brushing with a toothpaste designed specifically for sensitive teeth, which will continue removing plaque while providing some relief from sensitivity
  • thoroughly brushing at least twice a day for two minutes each time to prevent gum loss and decrease the risk of cavities and gum disease
  • flossing every night before bed to remove plaque and any leftover food debris
  • cleaning all parts of your mouth every time you brush, including between the teeth and along the gum line.
  • avoiding acidic foods and drinks

Scott Edwards Cosmetic And Family Dentistry can help with sensitive teeth

Sensitive teeth can be treated at home with the suggestions above, but if it persists or becomes more serious, you may wish to seek professional care. Depending on what’s causing the sensitivity as well as the severity of it, we may suggest one of a variety of treatments, such as:

Desensitizing toothpaste

This toothpaste contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve. It will normally require several applications before you see any noticeable reduction in sensitivity.

Fluoride gel

This is an in-office technique that can strengthen the tooth enamel and reduce the level of sensitivity.

A crown, inlay, or bonding

These treatments may be used to correct an existing flaw or tooth decay that has resulted in sensitivity.

Surgical gum graft

If gum tissue has been lost from the root for any reason, a graft can protect the root,  reducing sensitivity.

Root canal

If your tooth sensitivity is severe and isn’t responding to other treatment methods, a root canal may be necessary to eliminate the problem.

Our expert team is committed to providing high-quality dental care you can trust! We’re here to provide you with answers and relief. If you’re dealing with sensitive teeth and need a solution, contact us today for an appointment. We’ll get to the root of the problem and send you home with a smile that looks good and feels great!