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Have you ever experienced sudden pain when indulging in your favorite ice cream or enjoying hot coffee? If so, you may be dealing with tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity is a common dental problem that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by a sharp and sudden pain when the teeth are exposed to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks.

This blog post will answer the common question “Why do my teeth hurt?” severity of tooth sensitivity and treatment options to alleviate this concern. 

What Is Tooth Sensitivity?

Sensitive teeth often come as a surprise, with pain striking suddenly and without much warning. One might wonder, “Why do all my teeth hurt suddenly?” Understanding tooth sensitivity starts with breaking down its mechanics.

Teeth are structured with an outer protective layer called enamel and a softer layer beneath it known as dentin, which contains microscopic tubes called dentinal tubules. When the enamel wears down, or gum recession occurs, these tubules are exposed, leading to tooth pain when eating or drinking certain foods.

Why Are My Teeth Sensitive?

  • Gum Disease. As gum disease progresses, it can lead to gum recession, which exposes the sensitive root surface of the teeth covered by gum tissue. This root surface lacks protective enamel and exposes the nerve, causing sensitivity when you consume hot or cold foods and beverages.
  • Tooth Decay. Cavities or decay can lead to the erosion of your tooth’s outer layer (enamel), causing them to become more susceptible to sensitivity. When the protective layer of the tooth is compromised, it can create a pathway for sensations such as heat, cold or sweetness to reach the nerves inside the tooth, leading to sensitivity.
  • Broken Teeth. Tooth damage like cracks or fractures can expose the underlying dentin and the nerve endings it houses. This leaves your teeth more vulnerable to external stimuli that can result in sharp pain or sensitivity.
  • Acidic Foods. Acidic foods and drinks, like citrus fruits and fizzy drinks, can gradually wear down the enamel of your teeth. This can create tiny microscopic openings leading to the nerve endings beneath the enamel, resulting in tooth sensitivity.
  • Tooth Grinding. Consistently grinding your teeth, a condition also known as bruxism, can cause extreme wear and tear on the protective outer layer of your teeth. Over time, this grinding can result in the wearing away of the enamel, leading to increased sensitivity.
  • Plaque Buildup. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on our teeth. If not regularly removed through brushing and flossing and professional teeth cleaning, the bacteria in plaque can produce acids when you consume foods and drinks with sugar. These acids can eat away at the tooth enamel, leading to cavities and tooth sensitivity. Enamel is the outermost layer of the tooth that protects the more sensitive inner layers. When the enamel is eroded, it can expose the dentin, which is directly connected to the nerve of the tooth, causing sensitivity.

Severity of Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity can vary in severity, ranging from mild discomfort to excruciating pain. Understanding the different sensitivity levels can help determine the appropriate course of action.

Here are three levels of tooth sensitivity:

Mild Sensitivity

This can present as occasional discomfort or twinges of pain when consuming hot, cold, very sweet or acidic foods and drinks. It might be easy to overlook, brushing it off as a “one-time thing,” but it’s often the first sign of tooth sensitivity. Even though it’s easy to ignore, addressing it immediately can prevent it from escalating.

Moderate Sensitivity

This stage can be characterized by consistent discomfort when eating or drinking certain foods or drinks, like ice cream or citrus fruits. It’s more noticeable and frequent than mild sensitivity, showing up every time your teeth encounter specific triggers, suggesting a more progressed tooth sensitivity condition. Monitoring and taking proactive steps at this stage can help prevent further progression and severe consequences.

Severe Sensitivity

At this level, the discomfort can become intense pain that lingers even after eating or drinking, often impacting your ability to concentrate on everyday activities. This indicates advanced tooth sensitivity and needs urgent attention. If tooth sensitivity arrives at this stage, it’s essential to consult with a dental professional immediately to diagnose potential dental severe issues and create an action plan for treatment.

Recommendations to Reduce Tooth Sensitivity


Desensitizing Toothpaste

Desensitizing toothpastes are specially formulated to manage tooth sensitivity. They often contain key ingredients like potassium nitrate, which calms the nerves in the teeth, and stannous fluoride, which can block sensation transmission from the tooth surface to the nerve, both helping to reduce sensitivity. Some toothpastes might also contain arginine and calcium carbonate, which work by physically blocking the tiny tubes in the dentin, reducing the ability of the nerves in your teeth to sense hot or cold.

Brands such as Sensodyne are often recommended for their effectiveness in treating tooth sensitivity. It’s important to note that while these toothpastes help manage sensitivity, they do not address underlying causes of tooth sensitivity like gum disease or tooth decay, making regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene habits essential.

Use Soft-Bristled Toothbrush

Opting for a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle brushing habits can protect the enamel from further wear and tear. This can help maintain the strength of the tooth and reduce sensitivity in the long term.

Avoid Acidic Foods

Decreasing your intake of acidic foods and drinks helps to protect the enamel on your teeth from erosion. Balanced and tooth-friendly diet habits can minimize the sensitivity and improve your overall dental health.

Fluoride Gel or Rinse

Fluoride is known to strengthen tooth enamel and can be found in gels or rinses. Regular use of these products can reduce tooth sensitivity over time by hardening the enamel and providing a protective barrier for your teeth.

Mouth Guards

Custom-made mouthguards can offer a solution if you grind your teeth in your sleep. Wearing this guard can prevent further damage and wear down of the teeth, thus reducing the sensitivity caused by tooth grinding. It’s a simple and effective solution to mitigate the effects of bruxism in your sleep.

Regular Dental Care

Implementing and maintaining a thorough oral hygiene routine can help to prevent tooth sensitivity. Regular brushing, flossing, using mouthwash and professional cleanings can help remove plaque and tartar buildup, which can contribute to enamel erosion and subsequent sensitivity.

Dental Treatment

In cases where the sensitivity is severe or persistent, your dentist may recommend professional dental treatments. These could include root canals, dental restorations or gum grafts, which directly treat the underlying issues behind your sensitivity, offering a more permanent solution to the problem.

Dental fillings can also be sued by your dentist for tooth sensitivity. This treatment is usually applied when tooth decay, which often leads to sensitivity, has caused a cavity in the tooth. Your dentist removes the decayed part and “fills” the area with various materials, like composite resin or amalgam, to restore the tooth’s structure and function. This can help alleviate sensitivity by providing a barrier between the sensitive inner layers of the tooth (dentin and pulp) and the external environment.

However, it’s worth noting that some patients may experience temporary sensitivity after getting a filling due to the procedure’s impact on the nerve inside the tooth. 

When to Seek Professional Help

While some cases of tooth sensitivity can be managed at home, knowing when to seek professional help is essential. Consider consulting a dentist if:

  • If your tooth sensitivity is severe and persistent, affecting your daily life and ability to enjoy certain foods and drinks, it’s time to consult a professional. Dental professionals can offer treatments and solutions beyond over-the-counter products tailored to your dental situation.
  • Unexplained or sudden tooth sensitivity, without an apparent cause, like consuming hot or cold food or drink, warrants a professional assessment. Such a sudden onset of sensitivity could signal a deeper dental problem, like tooth decay or a tooth crack, and should be examined promptly to prevent further issues.
  • If over-the-counter remedies don’t relieve you, a dental professional can offer more substantial and effective treatments. This may include high-strength fluoride treatments, bonding, dental crowns or a root canal, depending on what’s causing your sensitivity.

Your dentist will thoroughly examine and create a personalized treatment plan based on your needs.

Don’t Let Tooth Sensitivity Affect Your Daily Life: Call Mooney Dental Today!

Understanding teeth sensitivity and its causes is crucial in finding practical solutions. By implementing preventive measures, desensitizing toothpaste and seeking professional help, you can relieve tooth sensitivity and enjoy a pain-free smile. 

If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, reach out to Mooney Dental for a comprehensive dental examination and treatment plan. We are dedicated to providing quality dental care and helping our patients maintain their oral health for life.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment and take the first step towards a healthy, sensitive-free smile!

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At Mooney Dental, we are committed to providing you with high-quality dental care at your convenience. We look forward to seeing you at your next appointment!

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