What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Dentinal hypersensitivity, or tooth sensitivity, is a common dental problem. It’s a condition that can develop over time, as a result of common problems such as receding gums and enamel wear. Most sufferers are between 20 and 50 years old. Tooth sensitivity can start to happen when the softer, inner part of the tooth called ‘dentine’ becomes exposed. Dentine lies under the enamel and the gums.
Thousands of microscopic channels run through the dentine towards the centre of the tooth. Once the dentine is exposed, external triggers (such as a cold drink) can stimulate the nerves inside the tooth, resulting in the characteristic short, sharp pain of tooth sensitivity.
Dentine has tiny tubes ('tubules') that contain nerve endings and are filled with fluid.
Some of the most common dental conditions that can cause sensitive teeth include:
Brushing Too Hard
Dental hygiene habits such as brushing too frequently, too vigorously or with a hard-bristled toothbrush can eventually wear down tooth enamel. These can also cause receding gums, causing further exposure of the dentine.
Gum Disease (Gingivitis)
When gum tissue becomes inflamed and weakened from gingivitis (gum disease), you might have sensitive gums and may feel tooth sensitivity because more of the underlying dentine root surface is exposed.
If you grind your teeth when you sleep, or if you clench your teeth throughout the day, you may be wearing down enamel and exposing the underlying dentine layer of your tooth.
A receding gum near the sensitive tooth, caused by conditions such as periodontal disease, can expose the tooth's dentine and cause sensitivity. Brushing too vigorously or frequently can also cause receding gums.