• Daniel Huigens DDS

Why Are My Teeth Sensitive

Many people complain of tooth sensitivity to cold and certain foods. There are many causes of tooth sensitivity such and cavities and cracked teeth. For this post I am going to talk about some reasons for temperature, food sensitivity.

A little about the tooth anatomy will help understand and explain where the pain is

coming from and how does it start.

We all know we have enamel in our teeth which is the white part of the tooth. It is the top layer of the tooth and is the hardest substance in our bodies . We see that mostly extends down to the gum line and a little below from what we see in the mirror. The enamel has no nerve endings in it and a defect only in the enamel really has little effect on producing sensitivity.


Under the enamel is dentin , the yellowish part in the picture. As you can seen it has lines drawn through the dentin which extend directly to the pulp of the tooth were all the nerve tissue , arteries and veins are in the middle of the tooth. The lines represent microscopic tubes the lead from the surface of the dentin to the pulp. Disruption in the integrity of these tubes or tubules is what causes the sensitivity. The tubes are not hollow and normally are sealed at the openings on the outside edges of the tooth. This is the place where sensitivity will start if the ends of the tubules are opened allowing acids and temperature changes to cause sensitivity especially where no enamel convers the dentin.


Things that can cause these tubules to be opened or unsealed at the ends and exposed to the chemicals in your mouth or trauma.

Acid is the primary cause for the dentin to be disrupted and transmit signals to the nerves of the pulp. This can be from acidic foods and liquids, eating sweets which the bacteria in your mouth turns it into acids.

Vigorous brushing and using too hard bristles can cause wear into the dentin and continually opening the tubules and causing gum recession exposing more dentin.

Even grinding your teeth can cleave off microscopic layers of dentin and enamel .


Treatment for sensitivity involves restoring the openings to the dentin tubes and maintaining a hard surface. Toothpastes for sensitivity have certain natural chemicals to reseal the tubes. Fluoride varnish at the dental office and high fluoridated toothpaste by prescription are effective. There are other special liquid chemicals the dentist can brush on the dentin. And, even laser therapy has helped.


Often people will have sensitivity that comes and goes without doing much of anything. The saliva has the chemicals to help maintain mild sensitivity.


Important to remember that seeing a dentist for persistent sensitivity could reveal something much worse than just a dentin problem. But if caught early can be a simple thing to take care of and cheaper !


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