Sensitive teeth: Here's what can you do

April 18, 2016

You love ice cream; but take a single bite and your teeth go, 'ooh, aah, ouch'. Now the problem has become so bad that you cannot even have hot tea and hot food. Your teeth twinge even when exposed to cold air from an air conditioner!

You don't know what to do!

But there is no need to worry.

If you have experienced these problems, you have sensitive teeth and you need to read this article right now.

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

Sensitive teeth can extremely uncomfortable. The problem occurs when the outer insulating cover of the tooth (enamel) wears off. Enamel protects the underlying layer of tooth called dentine. Dentine is softer than enamel and it is connected to living nerves. When enamel is worn off, dentine is subjected to sudden changes in temperature and acidity. The nerve endings cannot handle these sudden changes and they react by flaring up in pain. The problem can start at any age and the discomfort may range from mild twinges to severe radiating pain that continues for several hours.

However, sensitivity can also indicate a hidden dental problem like cavities, dental erosion, gum disease, tooth grinding, cracked teeth, chipped teeth, leakage around new fillings, etc. Researchers have noted that sensitivity can affect any age group but women are more affected than men. Statistics also show that cold food or cold air is more likely to cause sensitivity but some people do experience problems with hot, sweet, or acidic food items.

Treating Sensitive Teeth

The best way to deal with the problem is by visiting your dentist.

As like any other dental condition, an accurate diagnosis is necessary to control tooth sensitivity. Sensitive teeth can be treated. Depending on the cause, your dentist will first treat conditions like cavities, fractured teeth, carry out a dental cleaning, etc. Once all visible dental problems are solved, he/she will recommend home treatments or in-office/ clinic treatments that will control and reduce the sensitivity. The most common treatments are as follows -

At-home treatment: Desensitizing toothpastes and mouthwashes - Desensitizing mouthwashes and toothpastes are the first line of defense offered by dentists. Brands like Sensodyne, Colgate Sensitive, Thermoseal, etc.are very good at controlling dental sensitivity. The main ingredient in these products is usually potassium nitrate, stannous flouride or strontinum chloride. These ingredients form a permanent protective coating on top of the dentine and acts as an insulating layer against the temperature changes. Apart from these basic toothpastes and mouthwashes, some companies like Colgate also offer professional-grade desensitizing products like Colgate PreviDent 5000 Plus which can only be prescribed by a dentist. These professional grade products are extremely effective in controlling sensitivity with at-home treatment.

Home precautions: Apart from treatments, patients can also follow simple tips like using soft-bristled brushes, using a rotary-brushing technique, avoiding acidic foods, using flouridated toothpastes, etc. to control tooth pain.

In-office treatments: Unfortunately, at-home treatments do not work for a small percentage of patients. In this case, it does become necessary to try stronger clinic-based treatments that will help reduce the pain.

Topical fluoride treatments: Fluoride is an extremely powerful material that is commonly used to reduce cavity formation. At the same time, studies have shown that it can decrease tooth sensitivity as well. A professional application of .4% stannous fluoride gel or varnish along with 0.717% of fluoride is most effective in controlling sensitivity.

Varnishes: Copal or oxalate varnishes are paints applied to the tooth surface. The copal or oxalate blocks the nerve fibers and reduces dental sensitivity almost immediately.

Combination products: Products like tooth mousse contain a mixture of calcium phosphate (ACP) and casein phosphopeptide (CPP) obtained from milk casein, and Gluma Desensitizer (Heraeus Kulzer, Hanau, Germany) contains hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA), benzalkonium chloride, gluteraldehyde and fluoride are also used to control tooth sensitivity.

Restorations: Tooth-colored dental restorations are also effective in controlling dental sensitivity. Usually, resin composites, GIC, and dentine bonding agents are applied to the sensitive areas. These materials effectively seal the dentine layer and control dental sensitivity.

Lasers: The exact process by which lasers control tooth sensitivity is not known. But the process is effective and most patients experience pain-relief almost immediately.

Current Research into Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth can be an ongoing problem and you may be finding it difficult to deal with the pain. Please do not lose hope though. Dental researchers are actively looking into new treatments and materials that will help to control dental sensitivity. For example, researchers are now testing a form of bioglass which can coat the tooth and decrease sensitivity. Other products like Portland cement and many more are also being tested for treating dental sensitivity.


Dr Hazel Menezes Archives:



By Dr Hazel Menezes
Dr Hazel Menezes possesses an extraordinary theoretical and practical knowledge in dental surgery with more than 15 years of experience in the field. She loves the variety of work in general practice and has worked in dental hospitals in Mumbai and Mangaluru. She has attended many courses including cross infection and up to date techniques in crowns, fillings and root treatments. Dr Menezes has an interest in root canal therapy but also enjoys the practice of general family dentistry with an emphasis on prevention, general dental health. She is committed to postgraduate education and dental research and strives to ensure that all her patients benefit from the most up to date techniques in dentistry.
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Comment on this article

  • Umesh Chaubey, Lucknow

    Sat, May 07 2016

    Dr.Hazel deserves thanks for such an article that gives clear and easy to understand information on tooth sensitivity, its causes, prevention and effective treatment.

  • Antony Cony, Karkala/Qatar

    Wed, Apr 20 2016

    Top information most valuable. Thanks to Dr. Hazel

  • Patricia D'silva, Mangalore

    Wed, Apr 20 2016

    Good article.

  • Savitha Raaj, Miyar

    Mon, Apr 18 2016

    What is this flouride treatment? Is it expensive? I have sensitive teeth and I want do that.

  • John Pinto, Mangalore

    Mon, Apr 18 2016

    Good article. I do have sensitive teeth and my dentist found that I had a cavity that was causing the problem. This is a great way to make people understand common dental problems.


  • Pratibha, Mumbai

    Mon, Apr 18 2016


    I just wanted to know if this product Colgate Prevident is available in India?


  • Fr.Vincent D'Souza, Bela-Kasargod

    Mon, Apr 18 2016

    Thanks Dr.Hazel for the nice article with lots of information

  • Jossey Saldanha, Mumbai

    Mon, Apr 18 2016

    Finally after spending Billions on R&D, Colgate is back to my Grand Mothers favorite - Charcoal ...


    Mon, Apr 18 2016

    All you need to do is one simple & best thing 'don't brush your teeth to hard' especially with a electronic or battery operated toothbrush as well as hard bristled toothbrush, the soft ones are the better option.

  • Jagdish, Mumbai, UAE

    Mon, Apr 18 2016

    Thanks Doctor. Very Informative.

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