Hi everyone,

I get this question quite often.  According to the Academy of General Dentistry nearly 40 million people suffer from teeth sensitivity.  It’s a very common occurrence and so for the record, you’re not alone.


Located just beneath the surface of your tooth’s enamel is a layer of hard tissue called dentin.  When the nerves of the dentin become exposed and irritated, you’ll experience sensitivity.   Teeth sensitivity covers a wide range of sensations.  Sometimes it’s just a temporary tenderness that quickly goes away.  Others report of an intense sharp pain that lingers for a while. It can arise from hot and/or cold, and can be mild or severe.

Either way an examination will reveal if it’s one tooth with a crack, (you might have accidentally bit into something hard), a loose or missing filling or if the cause of the sensitivity is gum recession. If the exam shows a receding gum line or you’re grinding your teeth at night (bruxism) or even if you are scrubbing your gumlines too aggressively it is the exposed dentin that makes teeth sensitive.  And when your tooth or teeth become so sensitive that it interferes with your normal routine and you find it difficult to eat, brush or floss it is time to give us a call.

What you can do about sensitive teeth until you can see us

If the sensitivity is not due to an accident, there are a few over-the-counter remedies that can help alleviate the pain.  If you’re experiencing sensitivity to one tooth it may mean, you’ve experienced a small trauma from biting hard on something.  And if you’ve recently received a new crown or filling, it is not unusual for a tooth to be quite sensitive for short while.  In these circumstances the sensitivity usually goes away on its own with time.  If at all possible drink cold fluids through a straw.  A straw can allow liquids to bypass the sensitive tooth or teeth.

A good option for many people is desensitizing toothpastes, like Sensodyne.  Look for potassium nitrate as an ingredient, and be sure there is the ADA seal of approval on the package.  Put away your regular toothpaste and use only the desensitizing toothpaste when you brush.   Another trick other than just brushing with potassium nitrate toothpastes is to actually smear a very small amount on the sensitive tooth area 4 times a day.  The first 3 are after each meal, and the last is just before bed. You can rinse after a minute for the first 3 applications, but just go to bed without rinsing it off before bed.  Be patient with desensitizing toothpastes.  Sometimes you need to get most of the way through a tube before the relief is significant.

Obviously you should get rid of your hard-bristled brush if you use one.  If it’s been determined that your tooth or teeth are sensitive because of gum recession a hard bristle toothbrush will make it worse.  Soft-bristle brushes are usually best and of course be sure to use only gentle pressure.   Once the sensitivity is gone, it may be a good idea to save brushing the receded gum areas for last, which allows you to rinse the toothpaste off of your brush before using it on the recessed areas.  The latest research seems to implicate the abrasive toothpaste as a cause more than the brush. As an aside, Proenamel by Sensodyne is one of the least abrasive toothpastes available.

Studies now find that patients are better off waiting at least a half hour after eating a snack or meal before brushing.  If you’ve been eating or drinking foods with a high acid content, waiting gives your mouth an opportunity to return to a balanced pH level (5 to 7) and allow the acid softened surface of your enamel to remineralize and harden again.

The best combination is to use a soft-bristle toothbrush with a desensitizing toothpaste while the teeth are sensitive, and to try to avoid toothpaste use on the recessed areas afterward.  Another option is to also use a fluoride mouth rinse once a day to desensitize the areas.

Accidents Happen

If you’ve had an accident whether it’s from a sports injury or biting into something unexpected, give us a call at 248-356-8790.   Accidents can leave your teeth exposed to bigger problems if not resolved quickly.  For instance, if you’ve fractured or cracked a tooth, it will not only cause sensitivity, but can lead to tooth decay or even tooth loss if left unattended.  Another source of tooth sensitivity is of course worn or broken fillings or loose crowns.  Both of these problems are easily addressed.

If your sensitivity persists or you just have concerns and questions feel free to call us for an appointment. New patient consults are free of charge and we have had great success in managing tooth sensitivity.  At our Southfield dental office, we leave nothing to chance.  Your smile and oral health are too important to us.  For the latest advancements in dental care and treatments call us today at 248-356-8790.  It’s never too soon, or too late, to make good dental health a priority in your life.

Until Next Time,

Mark W Langberg, DDS, MAGD
Your Southfield Family Dentist
Tel: (248) 356-8790