What is Tooth Sensitivity?

What is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity affects a number of people. It is often caused by eating or drinking something hot, cold, sweet or acidic. Under normal conditions, the underlying dentine of the tooth (the layer that immediately surrounds the nerve) is covered by the enamel in the tooth crown, and the gums that surround the tooth. Over time, the enamel covering can get thinner, thus providing less protection. The gums can also recede over time, exposing the underlying root surface dentine.

The dentine contains a large number of pores or tubes that run from the outside of the tooth to the nerve in the centre. When the dentin is exposed, these tubes can be stimulated by changes in temperature or certain foods. Here is an image of what the dentin tubes look like under the microscope:

Microscopic view of dentin

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tooth sensitivity — also known as dentine hypersensitivity — affects the tooth via exposed root surfaces. This occurs when the enamel that protects the teeth wears away, or when gum recession occurs, exposing the underlying surface, the dentine, thus, reducing the protection the enamel and gums provide to the tooth and root.

Signs & Symptoms

If hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks, breathing in cold air, or touching the affected surface makes your teeth or a tooth sensitive, then you may have dentine hypersensitivity. Tooth sensitivity can come and go over time.


There are many causes of tooth sensitivity, including:

  • Worn tooth enamel from using a hard toothbrush or brushing too aggressively

  • Tooth erosion due to highly acidic foods and beverages

  • Tooth erosion due to bulimia or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD)

  • Gum recession that leaves your root surface exposed

Is Tooth Sensitivity Cramping Your Style?

Tooth sensitivity can make eating and drinking a painful experience. Try one of our sensitivity relief products that, with continued use, can help prevent future occurrences.