The most common dental problem we see is tooth sensitivity. A sensitive tooth not addressed properly can quickly turn into a dreaded toothache needing immediate attention. The truth is normal, healthy teeth should NEVER be sensitive.

Here are the Top 10 Causes and Cures of Sensitive Teeth


1. Your Diet

Eating or drinking things that are extremely hot, cold, acidic, sour, or sugary can easily cause tooth sensitivity even in perfectly normal/healthy teeth. Think about your teeth when biting or chewing things that are extremely hard like ice, hard candy, pens, or other objects. Limit or avoid these types of activities when possible.

2. Gum Recession

When the gums move or recede away from a tooth this usually results in exposure of the tooth root. The root surface once exposed can be quite sensitive to temperature changes, plaque accumulation and even normal brushing and cleaning. Treatments to reduce root surface sensitivity range from special toothpastes like Sensodyne, fluoride rinses and varnishes, desensitizing agents, and placement of resin bonded fillings and gum grafting.

3. Cavities

Cavities are caused by the acids excreted by the bacteria in our mouths. The acid eats away and softens the enamel layer of your teeth. As bacteria eats away deeper into the tooth, the more sensitive or painful your tooth can be. Cavities can only be fixed by your dentist either with a filling or possibly a crown if the tooth is stable enough for filling.

4. Worn and Broken Teeth

Anything that has caused the protective enamel layer of your teeth to be worn or broken is certainly going to result in sensitivity. Treatments to repair these types of defects range from fillings to crowns, or dental implants. Preventative measures like night guards are help ease the wear of your teeth.

5. Old and Failing Dental Work

The average life span of a filling or crown is 10 to 15 years. If you have any dental work that is older than this, your sensitivity may be due to bacterial leakage around some of your older fillings or crowns. Ideal treatment involves removal of old fillings and clean-up of any cavities or leakage. This is followed by placement of new fillings or possibly crowns.

6. Cracked Teeth

Cracks in teeth severely weaken a tooth and allow bacteria to easily access deep into the tooth and possibly into the nerve. Careful examination and review of digital x-rays are done by your dentist to check for cracks. Treatments for cracked teeth often include fillings, crowns, or root canals. Sometimes tooth extraction is necessary for a cracked tooth.

7. Clenching & Grinding

Recent studies estimate that 70% of Americans clench &/or grind their teeth in their sleep. This can result in additional stress and strain of the tooth causing pain and sensitivity. Clenching and grinding also causes muscle tightness, headaches and TMJ pain in some cases. These forces cause worn and broken teeth that can be reduced dramatically with night-time wear of custom dental mouth guards.

8. Whitening

The bleaching agents used to whiten teeth have the potential to penetrate the teeth and cause mild to moderate sensitivity and discomfort. Although effective and safe, temporary sensitivity during active bleaching treatments is common for many patients. Once active bleaching is stopped, any sensitivity usually disappears within a few days.

9. Infections

Tooth and gum infections, in the early stages, can feel more like a tooth sensitivity issue. If evaluation and treatment is neglected and delayed, root canals and crowns, periodontal surgery or even extraction of a tooth may be necessary. When caught in the early stages, more conservative treatments like antibiotics or periodontal cleanings may be all that is required.

10. Wisdom Teeth

Because wisdom teeth can be difficult to keep clean and often erupt into the mouth in very odd positions, they often are the source for sensitivity or pain. While not everyone has to have their wisdom teeth removed, they at least should be carefully evaluated by your dentist each visit.


If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, at least one of these is likely to blame. Some are potentially more serious than others. If your sensitivity is persistent or is moderate to severe when it occurs, have it evaluated as soon as possible. Whatever the issue, early detection and treatment is always best.

Don’t delay, do not risk losing a tooth or developing a terrible toothache. Drs. Wilson and Winokur at Meadowmont Dentistry are always available to help. Click or call 919-969-9330 to set an appointment and let them give you the peace of mind and care you deserve.