Understanding the Causes of Sensitive Teeth

Posted on 12/11/2012 by Gregory A. Williams
"When you visit the practice of Dr. Greg Williams, you can take comforting knowing that our top priority remains the health and wellbeing of our patients. To help you enjoy a lifetime of strong teeth and healthy gums, Dr. Williams is always happy to answer any questions you may have about your oral health. Dr. Williams believes that the more patients understand about their oral health, the better job they can do when tending to their oral care.

One of the many oral health problems that patients frequently encounter is tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet, and even sour foods and drinks. Tooth sensitivity can cause sharp bolts of pain that seem to radiate from the root of a tooth out to the rest of the jaw. Tooth sensitivity occurs after your gums have started to recede from the base of a tooth, which exposes the thousands to tiny tubules that run from the roots of a tooth into its nerve center. Whenever outside stimuli, such as hot or cold, irritate these sensitive tubules, it causes a sharp pang of pain to originate from the tooth.

A variety of factors can cause the development of sensitive teeth that include:

Excessive Mouthwash Use

Using mouthwash to help keep your breath minty fresh is fine when done in moderation, but excessive use could cause you to experience sensitive teeth. Some brands of mouthwash contain high levels of acidity that can make already sensitive teeth feel even worse. Instead of irritating already tender teeth, talk with Dr. Williams about finding a neutral fluoride rinse to use instead.

Diet High in Acidic Foods

Do you consider yourself a lover of all citrus, fruit juices, tomatoes, and other acidic treats? Just as with mouthwash, these types of foods and drinks contain high levels of acidity that can slowly begin to erode your teeth's enamel, exposing the delicate dentin located underneath. If life without these types of foods and drinks seems unbearable, try consuming them with a piece of cheese or make sure to drink a glass of milk after eating. Both can act as a neutralizing agent to the acids these items contain.

Teeth Bleaching

Few parts of your appearance draw the kind of attention as a brilliantly white smile. To help people smile brighter, a number of products have hit the market that offer to whiten teeth. However, for some patients, tooth whitening gels and toothpastes that contain peroxide-based bleaching agents can cause tooth sensitivity. Fortunately, the sensitivity caused by these types of products often go away once you quit using the product.

Aggressive Brushing

While brushing at least twice a day remains an integral part of maintaining your oral health, brushing too hard or using a toothbrush with rough bristles can wear away the enamel on your teeth, exposing the dentin underneath. Aggressive brushing can also cause your gums to become irritated, which could lead to gum erosion and recession over time.

Cracked Teeth

Even though our teeth seem nearly indestructible, they can suffer damage when subjected to frequent bad habits, such as munching on ice or using your teeth to open plastic bags, and can be chipped or broken. Once a tooth become cracked, the nerve-filled pulp located inside the tooth may become irritated when chewing causes the cracked pieces of rub together A crack tooth can also fill with bacteria, which could lead to the development of an infection, resulting in even greater pain.


More commonly referred to as teeth grinding or jaw clenching, bruxism is often an unconscious habit that wears away tooth enamel due to the continuous strain placed on your teeth. Over time, this constant grinding can wear away tooth enamel, and expose the sensitive nerves of your tooth. If you suffer from bruxism, talk to Dr. Williams about potential treatment solutions.

Tooth Decay

Dental decay exposes the root of a tooth to a variety of irritants, such as hot, cold, sweet, and even just brisk air. Practicing quality oral hygiene, eating a balanced diet, and reducing the frequency of snacking can help to prevent tooth decay. You also need to schedule regular checkups with Dr. Williams in order to ensure you maintain your oral health.

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Gregory A. Williams DMD | www.dentistintigard.com | 503-620-2020
11820 SW King James Pl Suite 40 Tigard, OR 97224
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