Teeth can become sensitive for various reasons. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), sensitive teeth are the most common dental problem reported by adults in the U.S.

So, the first step to taking care of your teeth is understanding why they’re sensitive.

What’s the difference between teeth sensitivity and tooth decay?

Tooth sensitivity is not the same as tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in your mouth consume carbohydrates (sugar) and produce acid.

Sensitive teeth can be seen on x-rays, but tooth decay cannot. The two don’t imply the same thing.

What causes tooth sensitivity?

Any number of things can sensitize your teeth, including:

Gum disease

Gums are the thin, soft tissue that encloses your teeth. When gums pull away from the crown of a tooth or become inflamed, they can expose the tooth root, making your teeth sensitive.

Chewing ice, chips, or hard candy

These can wear away the enamel on teeth and dentin (the dense, hard substance beneath the enamel.) Dentin contains nerve endings.

Chemicals in tooth-whitening products and mouthwash

In some cases, chemicals in these products can thin the enamel or cause irritation in or around your gums.

Tobacco use

Tobacco use can irritate your gums, causing them to pull away from your teeth.

Cracked fillings or dentures

Cracks in old fillings and worn-out dentures can expose the nerves inside teeth, making them sensitive to hot, cold, or sweets.


A cavity is simply a hole in your tooth caused by decay. Cavities can expose the nerves inside your teeth, making them sensitive.

Tooth grinding

Grinding down your teeth over time can cause sensitivity.

Sinus issues

Allergies, colds, and sinus infections can all cause swollen tissues in your face, including around your teeth. Swollen tissues can make your teeth sensitive to hot and cold.

What are the symptoms of sensitive teeth?

In addition to being sensitive when you eat cold or hot foods, you may have these additional symptoms:

  • Tooth pain or aching
  • You may have a tingling or prickly sensation in your teeth.
  • You may experience tooth sensitivity and other symptoms at night.

What should I do?

To deal with your sensitive teeth, try these tips:

Use desensitizing toothpaste: These are specifically formulated to reduce the effects of irritants on your teeth.

Use a cold/hot mouth rinse: Mouth rinses that contain potassium nitrate can help relieve pain by providing temporary relief.

Eliminate irritating foods and beverages: Ditch the ice cream, hard candies, dark-colored sodas, and energy drinks, which can all be tooth-wearying.

Try a healing rinse: A saltwater solution from your dentist or hygienist can soothe irritated gums.

Consider wearing a nightguard: This splint will protect teeth from grinding.

Ask your dentist about other treatments

New Hyde Park Dental is a full-service, family dental practice offering comprehensive treatment for patients of all ages. We pride ourselves on being a patient-focused practice, with our patients receiving the personal care they deserve. Our commitment to excellence entails providing extensive treatment options in a compassionate, ethical manner.

We’re here to assist you with all of your dental treatment needs. Call (516) 219-8918 for an appointment.

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