Man holding his jaw

Understanding The Causes & Reasons For Sensitive Teeth

Understanding the reasons for sensitive teeth is the first step towards tackling the issue and being able to enjoy life’s little pleasures without worrying about tooth sensitivity and discomfort.

Discover the reasons for sensitive teeth, what could be triggering your own discomfort, and how you can tackle the problem.

The 4 Main Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Underneath the outer layer of enamel, our teeth are made up of a mineral called dentine – a substance that covers the nerves at the centre of teeth. Dentine is usually protected by our gums and the mineral protective layer of enamel around the tooth, but if the dentine is exposed, the nerves underneath are at risk of contact, which is when we will start to feel discomfort.

The main  reasons for dentine exposure – and therefore what causes sensitive teeth – include:

Gum recession

Gum recession can come about through brushing too hard and poor dental hygiene leading to inflamed and sore gums. Whatever the cause, when gums recede, the dentine is exposed, which is  the first step to experiencing tooth sensitivity.

Enamel erosion

Even though it is the hardest tissue within the human body, the mineral layer of enamel coating our teeth can still weaken over time. It’s important that we protect our enamel for as long as we can. Even healthy diets high in fruit can weaken or soften enamel due to the acid erosion.

Brushing too hard

We all want to feel like our mouths and teeth are as clean as possible, of course, but brushing too hard can sometimes cause just as many problems as not frequently enough and be one of the reasons for sensitive teeth. A soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle, careful brushing, plus flossing, will keep your teeth in the best condition and limit the risk of tooth sensitivity.

Whitening teeth

Professional whitening treatments are popular, but they can also cause tooth sensitivity in the short term, due to the strong products used. If you are considering whitening your teeth, research treatments carefully and be prepared to give your teeth some extra tender loving care before, during and after treatment to avoid tooth sensitivity and other teeth whitening side effects. Your dentist can advise you further.

Teeth grinding

Teeth grinding, or ‘bruxism’, is one of those tricky things that we may not even be aware we’re doing, but it’s one of the common reasons for sensitive teeth. If you’ve noticed that you are waking up with a sore jaw or your gums are more painful than usual, or you have a combination of these two symptoms plus headaches, you may be a ‘grinder’. Teeth grinding can usually be detected by a visit to the dentist.

Teeth Sensitivity FAQs

Find all the answers to common questions around teeth sensitivity here.

Why are my teeth sensitive all of a sudden?

If you suddenly have sensitive painful teeth, it is important that you consult your dentist for advice.

A change in toothbrush (particularly to a hard-bristle brush), a new mouthwash, or using teeth whitening treatments can all be causes of tooth sensitivity.

Dental work like fillings, crowns, or teeth bleaching can also be reasons for sensitive teeth, but the effects of these should subside within a few days.

What can you do about tooth sensitivity?

If you are experiencing teeth sensitivity, your dentist will be able to identify the causes of your tooth sensitivity and recommend suitable treatments.

Most cases of sensitive teeth are easily treated with a change in your oral hygiene regimen (check out some recommended products discussed below) but some of the causes of sensitive teeth may need further treatment, which your dentist will be able to recommend.

Can stress cause tooth sensitivity?

Stress can cause you to grind your teeth, which can be one of the causes of tooth sensitivity. If stress continues to cause sensitive teeth, your dentist may recommend a mouth guard to prevent grinding.

How to reduce tooth sensitivity

Understanding the reasons for sensitive teeth is vital to addressing (or avoiding) any pain or discomfort. Adopt good dental care habits, avoid teeth grinding, brush your teeth gently twice a day and floss.  

* Sensitive areas refers to open dentinal tubules. Based on In vitro Study, 2019.

** With regular use as per pack instructions.