13 05 tooth sensitivity solutionsUp to 50 per cent of Canadians report experiencing tooth pain due to sensitivty.

Therefore, we decided to get to the root of things. Our dental experts break down exactly what's happening and how to best treat it.

Why do teeth become sensitive? 

“Sensitivity happens when a layer of tooth structure called dentin becomes exposed, either due to gum recession or the hard protective enamel wearing down,” explains Dr. Naila Ladha, DMD, CAGS, of Dawson Dental Rosedale in Toronto. Dentin is the gateway to sensitive nerve endings; hence the stinging or throbbing reaction when taking a bite of ice cream or a sip of hot tea.

What causes this sensitivity?

Although teeth sensitivity and pain can be caused by many things it’s definitely a warning sign that something’s not right.

According to Dr. Ladha, the most common causes are:

- Improper tooth brushing or using a hard-bristled brush

- Tooth decay

- Chipped or broken teeth, which can be a result of general wear and tear over the years or a trauma to that area

- Teeth grinding

- Teeth whitening products that were either used improperly or in areas where enamel is already thin and dentin is exposed

- Plaque buildup

- Gum recession due to periodontal disease

- Over consumption of acidic foods and drinks

- Excess acid in the mouth, sometimes caused by acid reflux.

When it comes to spotting sensitivity, Dr. Rakesh Maini, BDS, of 2025 Dental in Burlington, Ont., says, “symptoms can range from mild localized pain upon touch to pain from differing temperatures of food, liquid or even air. Or the feeling can be more involved, ranging from sharp intermittent pain to a dull throbbing sensation.”

How can my dentist help relieve my tooth sensitivity?

It’s common for people to think tooth pain will just go away. Although sometimes this is the case, Dr. Maini still recommends seeing your dentist to find out exactly what’s causing it. Teeth and gums that are functioning well don’t experience pain, so come up with a plan of action with your dentist.  

Depending on the cause of your sensitivity, there are a few different treatment options, says Dr. Ladha:

13 05 tooth sensitivity solutions treatments

At-Home Options

A healthy lifestyle and a solid oral care routine at home will help keep sensitivities at bay.

A combinationof regular home and professional care will keep your pearly whites in top shape. Change your toothbrush to a soft-bristled version, brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time, floss daily and see your dentist every six months or as recommended.

Avoid consuming lots of acidic foods or drinks—carbonated soda, wine, citrus fruits and yogurt—as they will dissolve protective enamel.

Consult with your dentist about finding the right toothpaste for you. For a quick fix, Dr. Ladha even recommends for patients to use a Q-tip to apply sensitive toothpaste to the affected areas and leave it on overnight.