Ask a Dentist: Why are Teeth Sensitive

Ask a Dentist: Why are Teeth Sensitive

Whenever you see a dentist in Austin, Tx or anywhere else in the world, chances are they are going to ask about tooth sensitivity. If you have never experienced such a thing before, there is a chance that the idea would sound baffling. After all, teeth are essentially bones. Doesn’t that mean that they are not likely to feel pain? After all, when you break a bone, you are not likely going to feel it unless you touch or move the area that the bone controls.  If the crack is small enough, then you might not be able to feel it at all. So, why can teeth feel sensitivity?

To answer that question, we will need to look at what makes up a tooth to see if there is a reason for perceived sensitivity. From there, we can tell you ways to fight or decrease the chances of tooth sensitivity as a problem.

The Anatomy of a Tooth

Something as small as a tooth can have a complicated structure. Just like other parts of our body it is connected to a blood source, tissue, and has its own network of nerves.  So, in order to understand just how a tooth works, we are going to work from the outside, in.  Web MD explains the different parts best.

Enamel: This is the outer part of the tooth that is visible to the naked eye. It is hardened thanks to a saliva cocktail of calcium phosphate, a rock-hard mineral. In fact, it makes our teeth the hardest substance in the human body.

Dentin: A layer underlying the enamel. It is a hard tissue that contains microscopic tubes. When the enamel is damaged, heat or cold can enter the tooth through these paths and cause sensitivity or pain.

Pulp:  The softer, living inner structure of teeth. Blood vessels and nerves run through the pulp of the teeth.

Cementum: A layer of connective tissue that binds the roots of the teeth firmly to the gums and jawbone.’

Periodontal ligament: Tissue that helps hold the teeth tightly against the jaw.

When we look at the anatomy of the tooth, we start to notice where temperature sensitivity comes in. It is specifically stated.  The dentin layer, when exposed, the microscopic tubes can pick up heat and cold, increasing the chances of sensitivity. So, when a dentist is asking their patient about tooth sensitivity, they are more or less checking for damaged tooth enamel.

How to Prevent Damaged Tooth Enamel

The cause of damage to tooth enamel can happen in multiple ways. For example, if a tooth is chipped or cracked then there is a good chance the dentin layer is exposed. Excessive grinding can also wear down the enamel.  Tooth decay and cavities are also ways in which tooth enamel is exposed. Also, excess exposure to carbonation and acidic fruits/ drinks can wear the enamel down faster.

So, what can you do to prevent tooth sensitivity? What do dentists recommend?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “To prevent sensitive teeth from recurring, brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. Use gentle strokes, rather than vigorous or harsh scrubbing, and avoid using an abrasive toothpaste.

If you grind your teeth, ask your dentist about a mouthguard. Tooth grinding can fracture teeth and cause sensitivity.

You might also consider taking care when eating or drinking acidic foods and drinks, such as carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, and wine — all of which can remove small amounts of tooth enamel over time. When you drink acidic liquids, use a straw to limit contact with your teeth. After eating or drinking an acidic substance, drink water to balance the acid levels in your mouth.”

But what there is already tooth damage? What can a dentist do to help alleviate tooth pain and sensitivity?

Ways to Fix Tooth Sensitivity

The damage to tooth enamel can vary from something as small as a crack to an infection that has a long time not been treated. Thankfully, there are a variety of tools that can help decrease tooth sensitivity. A few of these include:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste.This contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve, and usually requires several applications before the sensitivity is reduced.
  • Fluoride gel.An in-office technique which strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations.
  • A crown, inlay or bonding. These may be used to correct a flaw or decay that results from sensitivity.

If you think you may have tooth sensitivity and need to see a dentist in the Austin, Texas area, feel free to visit

Scroll to Top