man with sensitive tooth holding mouth

What are the different causes of tooth sensitivity?

If you suddenly feel aches or shock-like pain in your teeth, it’s time to investigate.

Tooth sensitivity is a brief sensation caused by a stimulus, such as heat or cold, to exposed dentin, the layer beneath the hard, white enamel of the teeth. When dentin loses its protective covering, the nerves within the teeth lose their buffer. If your teeth hurt when you eat ice cream, drink hot beverages, or eat sour foods or citrus, you may have ‘sensitive teeth’. Sensitivity can be every now and again or frequent, and with cold drinks or ice cream, for example, the level of discomfort experienced can vary but the triggers are usually hot and cold, and sometimes sweet and sour foods and drinks.

Tooth sensitivity is relatively common. Approximately 1 in 8 people experience sensitive teeth, according to a study published in March 2013 in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA).

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

  • Brushing your teeth too hard will not make them cleaner, but it may wear away the protective enamel layer and make them sensitive, so
    when you brush remember to brush gently and with a ‘soft’ toothbrush.
  • Gum disease can cause your gums to recede, exposing the root surfaces which can trigger sensitivity.
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth can wear away your tooth enamel and usually occurs at night while you are asleep.
  • Erosion of the tooth enamel by acidic drinks and foods, or stomach acid from reflux or vomiting. Pregnancy, eating disorders, and conditions such as Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease can increase your risk of erosion, so you should take extra care with your teeth in these situations.
  • Chipped, broken, or decayed teeth can cause the nerve in the tooth to become irritated and sensitive.
  • Recent dental work such as restorations, crowns, fillings, and even a routine scale and clean may result in sensitive teeth. Your dentist will normally advise if the treatment you are undertaking may cause sensitivity and will suggest a range of available options to minimise discomfort.


Still have questions about teeth sensitivity? Please feel free to call us on (03) 9817 3685, our experienced team at Kew Dental would be glad to help.