Sensitive Teeth and How to Treat Them

Hot coffee. Cold ice cream. Does the idea of hot or cold anything make you squirm? Do you avoid certain foods or drinks because they cause tooth pain? If so, you’re not alone. Research finds that 1 in 8 Americans suffer from sensitive teeth, and it’s most common among women, young people, and those who whiten their teeth at home.

What causes tooth sensitivity?


The outermost layer of our teeth is called enamel. Just beneath that is a layer called dentin.  Dentin contains microscopic hollow tubes that lead to the nerves and cells inside the tooth. So when your dentin is exposed (due to cracked enamel, tooth decay, fractured teeth, gum disease, etc.), those hollow tubes in the dentin allow the heat, cold, or acidic triggers to reach the nerves.  That’s what causes your pain.

Treatment options for sensitive teeth

If you have sensitive teeth, you don’t have to just live with the pain.  You have options. Treatment will depend on the cause of your sensitivity.  It’s best to talk to us at Soft Touch Dental about your particular case. Below, however, we’ve outlined a few basic steps to get started managing your sensitive teeth:

Switch your toothpaste
Your whitening toothpaste could be the culprit. Some toothpastes that lighten or remove stains increase tooth sensitivity.  Tartar-control toothpastes containing sodium pyrophosphate might, too. If switching to non-whitening toothpaste doesn’t do the trick, try a special toothpaste for sensitive teeth. These work to desensitize teeth by blocking sensation traveling from the tooth to the nerve. Typically, though, you’ll need to use them consistently for a period of time before you notice the benefits.

Brush gently
Your teeth do not require vigorous brushing to get clean.  Brushing too hard can both weaken your enamel and drive your gums back to expose the dentin beneath the surface.  Use a soft-bristled brush and brush gently.

Fluoride treatment
At Soft Touch Dental, every regular appointment includes a fluoride treatment.  This helps to strengthen your tooth enamel and reduce sensitivity. It’s also important that your toothpaste contains fluoride. Mouth rinses containing fluoride can also help strengthen your enamel.

Cut back on acidic foods
Carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, wine, yogurt, and other acidic foods can remove small amounts of tooth enamel over time. When you do partake in these foods and beverages, however, if you drink milk or water afterward, it will help balance the levels of acid in your mouth. Additionally, drinking from a straw helps limit contact of acids with your teeth.

Visit your dentist
If cavities or cracked enamel are causing your tooth sensitivity, the pain won’t go away until you address the issue. If you haven’t been in to see us in a while, make an appointment to do so.

If your teeth are still sensitive…

If switching toothpaste and changing the way you brush doesn’t relieve you from the pain of tooth sensitivity, we can provide additional services and procedures, including:

Bonding agent – to seal the dentin surface and provide a barrier to the stimuli that cause sensitivity

Surgical gum graft – to address lost gum tissue and protect exposed roots

Root canal – to address severe pain and problems in the tooth’s soft core when other treatments aren’t working

At Soft Touch Dental in San Diego, we want you to be able to enjoy eating everything that brings you pleasure. We know how tooth pain can get in the way of that, and we’re here to help.

Give us a call or stop by our office in Clairemont to schedule an appointment.

Let’s work together to address your tooth sensitivity, so you can enjoy a cold drink on a hot San Diego afternoon – pain free.