March 02, 2023

Tooth Sensitivity

Ouch! Tooth sensitivity can cause mild to severe tooth pain with cold or hot foods and beverages, cold air, or sweets. In fact, one of the most common complaints we receive from our patients is tooth sensitivity. Although cavities are often the cause, they are not the most frequent and definitely not the only cause.

The tooth itself has nerve endings just like any other part of your body. Although teeth are hard and strong, able to chew and tear the toughest foods for many years, they have a sensitive core that is full of nerve endings. Anything that disrupts or wears down the protective cover will expose the nerve endings and causes tooth sensitivity. Especially vulnerable is the root portion of the tooth, next to the gum. It has a thin mineral layer protecting thousands of tiny tubules leading to your tooth's center where the nerve is. These tubules (or channels) allow sensation— for example, hot, cold or sweet food — to reach the nerve in the tooth. This can result in pain. If gums have receded, exposing more root surface and the thin protective layer is worn down, more tooth sensitivity will occur.

Causes of tooth sensitivity

The outer shell of the tooth is a hard enamel layer. Under this is a slightly softer more porous dentin layer that covers the nerve core (pulp) of the tooth and contains the many fine tubules where nerve endings are located. These layers can be destroyed or weakened by the following resulting in more nerve endings being exposed and therefore more sensitivity or pain.

  • Cavities
  • Tooth fractures or cracks
  • Tooth grinding or clenching
  • Aggressive brushing technique
  • Acidic food or drink such as lemon, pop, vinegar
  • Tooth whitening treatments, toothpaste or mouthwash
  • Acid reflux (GERD) or frequent vomiting
  • Some genetic disorders
  • In general anything that causes mechanical wear or chemical erosion (acid attack) will cause tooth sensitivity. One of the most common causes of tooth sensitivity is aggressive brushing technique. Any toothbrush, manual, battery operated or electric has the potential to scrub too hard and damage teeth if pressing too hard. Aim for softer bristles when looking for a toothbrush either manual or electric and avoid pressing too hard when brushing.

    Helpful suggestions to help prevent or reduce tooth sensitivity

  • Careful brushing technique using a soft bristle toothbrush with gentle pressure. Most electric toothbrushes have pressure sensors. If you brush too hard, they turn off. Try to avoid a scrubbing side to side motion with a harder bristle brush.
  • Wearing a nightguard if grinding or clenching is suspected to protect teeth from excessive wear.
  • Avoiding acidic foods or beverages especially lemon or citrus in general, and carbonated drinks (pop, even mineral water). Sports drinks are also acidic in addition to containing high quantities of sugar. Do not brush teeth at least an hour after an acidic exposure.
  • Desensitizing toothpaste can sometimes help improve sensitivity. There are a variety of products available over-the-counter.
  • Fluoride or desensitizing varnishes can be applied by your dental professionals to reduce sensitivity. These can help strengthen the tooth surface and reduce pain.
  • Bonding/filling material can occasionally be used to cover worn down exposed tooth surfaces.
  • Surgical gum graft can be done to replace lost gum tissue coverage on exposed roots and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root canal is required if the nerve inside the tooth is permanently damaged or is infected.
  • Avoid whitening toothpaste or mouthwash, they are not very effective in whitening teeth, they only remove superficial stain and can be abrasive. Speak to your dental professionals about the use of whitening products for guidance on how to reduce sensitivity while using them.
  • Regular dental visits.
  • Tooth sensitivity is very common and can be uncomfortable. Try some of the above simple solutions and don't forget to ask for guidance.


    Why our patients choose us

    Sarah E.

    If you have anxiety about getting dental work done, or if you're highly sensitive and worried about pain, Dr. Martino will always make the process as comfortable as possible.

    Monica B.

    The office is stunning and a great location in central Richmond Hill. Dr Martino (and her staff) are a joy to work with. Also, the cleaning was the best I've ever had.

    Andrea & Lisa C

    I have never been to another dentist that makes me feel comfortable when working on my teeth. She is very gentle and thorough from start to finish.

    Alexandr E.

    This dentistry is absolutely amazing. The office and all the equipment is very clean, brand-new, and fresh. It creates a feeling of being at a very modern dentistry. Also, the staff is super friendly and makes you feel like home.

    Ray V.

    Dr. Martino has been my dentist for 21 years, and over that time I've referred several friends and family members to her. She is pleasant and professional. Wishing her all the best at her new practice.

    Janis H.

    Dr. Martino is an amazing dentist. She is kind, makes you feel comfortable and always does a great job! It is a pleasure coming to see her and her staff always smiling!

    Paul D.

    My family and I have been seeing Dr Martino for many years and we have had amazing care & service. This new location is great and the staff are so friendly.

    Fernando C.

    I have no hesitation recommending Dr. Martino to anyone. She is very professional, caring and gentle dentist. She takes time to explain and suggest what is best to be done.

    Alvina I.

    A warm welcome as soon as you walk in. Convenient parking in busy Richmond Hill. Dr Martino is the best dentist in Ontario! Staff are attentive and highly capable.

    Ioana N.

    Always a positive experience visiting Dr. Martino. She always lets you know what you need and we absolutely trust her professionalism. With the kids, she has a gentle, friendly approach. Our favourite dentist for over 20 years!

    Let's get in touch!

    Have a question or want to learn more? Drop us a line, we'd be happy to help.

    We are gladly accepting new patients from Richmond Hill and surrounding areas, and we are looking forward to being the first choice for you and your family's dental care!

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