​Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth describe pain or discomfort in one or more teeth that is most common when you eat or drink something hot, cold, sweet or sour. You may even experience pain triggered by cold air. 

Sensitive teeth are usually the result of worn tooth enamel that exposes the tooth roots. Other times sensitivity can be caused by other reasons, such as cavities, a chipped or cracked tooth, a recent filling or as a secondary effect of another dental procedure.

If you are experiencing teeth sensitivity, it is suggested you should visit a dentist to treat the symptoms. The Teeth and Skin Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital provides quality treatment and can tend to all your dental care needs.

Sensitive teeth describe pain in one or more teeth that is most common when you eat or drink something hot, cold, sweet or sour. The pain experienced can be sudden and sharp and can be felt from deep in the nerve endings of your teeth.

You get sensitive teeth when your gums pull back and expose the surface beneath, called the dentin. This soft layer makes up the inner part and roots, which have thousands of tiny tubes that lead to the tooth's nerve centre (the pulp). These channels allow the trigger; for example, the hot, cold, or sweet food, to reach the nerve in your tooth. This results pain and discomfort.

Other things that can cause sensitive teeth are:

  • Wear and tear - Over time, brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush or grinding your teeth can wear down enamel and expose the dentin.

  • Tooth decay near the gum line.

  • Gum disease (gingivitis). Inflamed and sore gums pull back and expose the roots of your teeth.

  • Teeth grinding - Grinding or clenching your teeth may wear down the enamel and expose the dentin.

  • Tooth-whitening products - These products may be major contributors to sensitive teeth.

  • Acidic foods - Food and drinks with a high acid content, like citrus fruits, tomatoes, pickle, and tea, can wear down enamel.

  • Dental work - Teeth cleaning, root planing, crown placement, and tooth restoration can make teeth sensitive. This should go away in 4 to 6 weeks​​

​​When you notice that you suffer from teeth sensitivity, you should visit a specialist who can properly diagnose and treat your symptoms. In some instances teeth sensitivity can be part of a larger issue, so it is important for the dentist to rule this possibility out before treatment.​

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here (hyperlink) are some tips to help get you started.​​

When you visit the dentist, he or she will firstly look at you dental history and ask details about your symptoms. They will then examine your mouth to look for any diagnosable problems. They may also ask to take X-rays, which will help to discover any decay, problems with the nerves or exposed root surfaces. Once the dentist has conducted all the tests necessary, he or she will be able to diagnose and suggest treatment.​​  

Treatment of sensitive teeth includes:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste – special toothpaste that can often help to rid pain associated with sensitive teeth after several uses.

  • White Fillings– used to shield exposed root surfaces.  

  • Fluoride varnishes – specialized which can be applied to sensitive areas or the exposed root surface to strengthen them.  

  • Dentin sealers – applied to the exposed root surface.

  • Surgical gum graft – gum tissue can be taken from other areas of your mouth to attach to the affected area that may have lost gum tissue.

  • Root canal – in extreme case where your sensitive tooth is causing severe pain that has not lessened with any other treatments, the doctor might suggest a root canal, which is a procedure to treat complications in the tooth’s soft core (pulp).​​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.