dentin hypersensitivity

Dentin Hypersensitivity: Etiology, Diagnosis and Treatment

One in eight Americans suffers from dentin hypersensitivity. The condition can make eating and drinking very painful. Although it’s not a serious medical condition, it’s worth learning more about the causes, signs, and treatment options for this condition.

What Is Dentin Hypersensitivity?

Dentin hypersensitivity is a dental condition that makes you feel sharp pain when your teeth are exposed to certain triggers, such as hot or cold temperatures, sweets, or acidic foods and drinks. The pain is caused by the stimulation of nerve endings in the teeth.

Normally, the enamel covers the dentin (the tissue forming the bulk of the tooth, underneath the enamel and cementum but above the dental pulp) and protects it from external stimuli. However, your dentin can be exposed due to gingival recession or another cause, making it sensitive to stimuli.

This condition can affect one tooth or many teeth. It is most common in people between the ages of 20 and 40. Women are more likely to suffer from the condition than men.

The Etiology (Causes) of Dentin Hypersensitivity

People who have brushed their teeth too hard, who have gum disease, or who have worn away tooth enamel are at an increased risk for developing dentin hypersensitivity. These are the most common causes of sensitive teeth, and treatment will depend on which one is true for you.

Other less common causes include:

  • teeth grinding (bruxism);
  • eating disorders;
  • excessive acid reflux;
  • braces or other dental appliances;
  • dental procedures, such as teeth whitening.

To prevent dentin sensitivity, you should brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush. If your teeth are already somewhat sensitive, avoid abrasive toothpastes that can damage the enamel further. This includes most whitening toothpastes – stick to products labeled as sensitive instead.

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You should also visit your dentist regularly to have your teeth cleaned and to check for any other dental problems. The sooner you catch a problem, the easier it will be to treat. Preventing gum disease also helps to reduce the risk of sensitive teeth. 

Signs and Symptoms – When to Seek a Diagnosis?

The most common symptom of dentine hypersensitivity is sharp pain when exposed to certain triggers, such as hot or cold temperatures, sweet foods, or acidic beverages. The pain is usually temporary and goes away quickly once the trigger is removed. However, in some cases, the pain can last for several minutes or even hours. 

Other signs and symptoms of dentin hypersensitivity include: 

  • pain when brushing or flossing your teeth;
  • sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures that lingers after the stimulus has been removed;
  • pain when breathing in cold air.

Most people don’t need to see a dentist for diagnosis because the condition is typically not serious and can be treated at home with over-the-counter products. However, you should see a dentist if you are experiencing severe pain or if your sensitivity does not improve with home treatment within two weeks. You should also see a dentist if your gums are bleeding or if you have any other changes in your mouth that concern you.

Oral health is important for overall health, so it’s always a good idea to see a dentist regularly even if you don’t have any specific concerns. Whether dentin hypersensitivity is serious enough to warrant a dentist visit is up to you and your dentist.

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How Can a Dentist Treat Your Sensitive Teeth?

There are several treatment options available for people with dentin hypersensitivity. Your dentist will recommend the best course of treatment based on the severity of your sensitivity and other factors. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the most common treatments.

Desensitizing Toothpaste

This type of toothpaste contains ingredients that help to block the sensation of pain by filling in exposed dentin tubules. It may take several weeks of regular use before you notice an improvement in your symptoms. However, desensitizing agents are worth a shot if you’ve only started to suffer from dentinal hypersensitivity recently. Always apply them with a soft tooth brush.

Fluoride Treatments

Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and can help to reduce sensitivity by closing the open dentinal tubules. Your dentist may apply a sodium fluoride varnish directly to your teeth during an office visit or prescribe a fluoride rinse that you can use at home every day. Even in people with good oral hygiene, fluoride treatments can reduce the prevalence of dentin hypersensitivity.


If your sensitive teeth are also chipped or cracked, your dentist may recommend bonding as a way to reduce sensitivity and improve aesthetics. In this procedure, a tooth-colored resin composite is applied to the damaged tooth and then hardened with ultraviolet light.

Gum Grafts

If your gums have receded significantly due to periodontal disease, this may leave your root surfaces unprotected and exposed, which can lead to increased sensitivity. In this procedure, your dentist will take tissue from another part of your mouth (usually the roof) and attach it to your gums to cover exposed root surfaces. This helps to protect roots and reduce sensitivity.

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If you’re experiencing sensitive teeth, there’s no need to suffer in silence! There are several effective treatment options available that can help you find relief from your discomfort quickly and easily.

Take Care of Your Sensitive Teeth and Feel Better Soon!

If you’re suffering from sensitive teeth, don’t hesitate to seek treatment. The sooner you catch and treat it, the sooner you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite foods and beverages without pain. And, as an added bonus, taking care of your teeth now will help to prevent more serious problems down the road.

While most cases of dentin hypersensitivity are not serious, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and see a dentist if you’re experiencing any unusual pain or changes in your mouth. Your dentist can help you to determine the cause of your sensitivity and develop a treatment plan that’s right for you. With proper care, you can enjoy having your natural teeth for years to come!

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