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What causes sensitive teeth?

For some people, sensitive teeth means that they experience a mild twinge of pain when they eat or drink something particularly cold or hot, or something sweet or acidic. For others, having sensitive teeth can mean significant pain for hours at a time, and can be a sign of underlying dental issues that could potentially be very serious. For those living with sensitive teeth, it can have quite an impact on their daily life.

The problem occurs when the inner layer of your teeth (called dentine) is not protected fully by your harder enamel layer. Some of the reasons for this happening could be:

Dental erosion

Acid attacks the teeth after we eat and drink, which can wear away tooth enamel over time, resulting in sensitivity.

Toothbrush abrasion

We’re always told that brushing our teeth is essential to maintaining good oral health, which it is; however, brushing your teeth too hard, and with poor technique (e.g. side to side brushing), can cause enamel to wear away over time and is especially common where the teeth meet the gums, which can result in sensitivity.

Receding gums

Gums can naturally recede over time and expose more of the tooth in the mouth, which can also mean sensitivity becomes an issue as roots are not protected by an enamel layer.

Grinding teeth

People who ‘grind’ their teeth (which often happens when asleep and they may therefore be unaware of it) can cause the enamel to wear away as they repeatedly clench their teeth and grind them together. This can result in sensitivity.

Tooth bleaching/whitening procedures

Some people that have tooth bleaching or whitening treatments can experience sensitive teeth during the process or afterwards. This can happen with home whitening kits as well as procedures carried out by a dental professional.

Cracked or broken tooth or filling

If a tooth cracks or breaks, the dentine can become exposed and lead to sensitivity. The same can happen if a filling that has been protecting the inner tooth cracks or comes out.

Gum disease

A build-up of plaque and tartar can not only cause gums to recede, but can also damage the bone beneath. An infection in the gums can lead to sensitivity, along with other symptoms, such as signs of bleeding when you brush your teeth. Sensitivity is often one of the early signs of gum disease.

If a dental procedure has gone wrong

If you have had dental treatment and experience significant sensitivity afterwards, which lasts longer than a few weeks, it can be a sign that the procedure they carried out has not worked or there is an infection or other post-treatment problem. In some cases, it could be a sign that your dentist has not performed the procedure to a good standard.

What should you do if you have sensitive teeth?

If you are experiencing prolonged discomfort with sensitive teeth then it’s always best to see your dentist and together try to pin down the cause of your specific symptoms. For some people, using a toothpaste that has been developed to help those with sensitive teeth, along with sticking to a good daily oral health routine, may be enough to ease the symptoms. For other people, their sensitive teeth may be a sign of a more serious problem, which requires action from your dentist, such as a treating a cracked tooth or filling, or giving a diagnosis of gum disease.

If you believe that the actions of your dentist have caused your teeth to be sensitive and painful or you think a dental professional has been negligent in your care, you may be eligible to make a claim for dental negligence compensation.

Contact the Dental Law Partnership for free initial advice and to find out about the claim process. Call us on 0808 115 0727.