A chilled glass of water

Causes of Sensitivity

Cold drink with ice

Causes of Sensitivity

Sensitive Teeth Causes

Dentinal hypersensitivity, or tooth sensitivity, is a common dental problem. It’s a condition that can develop over time, as a result of common problems such as receding gums and enamel wear. Most sufferers are between 20 and 50 years old. Tooth sensitivity can start to happen when the softer, inner part of the tooth called ‘dentine’ becomes exposed. Dentine lies under the enamel and the gums. 

Thousands of microscopic channels run through the dentine towards the centre of the tooth. Once the dentine is exposed, external triggers (such as a cold drink) can stimulate the nerves inside the tooth, resulting in the characteristic short, sharp sensation of tooth sensitivity.


Cross section of a tooth

Only a dentist can confirm whether you have dentinal hypersensitivity. If you are experiencing any dental problems, always consult your dentist for advice. If you have dentinal hypersensitivity, you can help to minimise further exposure of the dentine, care for your sensitive teeth and relieve the symptoms by making some simple changes to your daily oral care routine and dietary habits.

In this section we look at some of the main Sensitive Teeth Causes:

  • Enamel wear e.g. by tooth grinding or brushing with abrasive toothpastes.
  • Gum recession e.g. from gum disease or aggressive brushing

The sensitivity which can be experienced during and after professional tooth whitening (bleaching) treatments is different from dentinal hypersensitivity. See Do tooth whitening treatments cause sensitivity? for more information.