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Is taking even a small sip of hot coffee or a tiny bite of ice cream painful? Do you often wince when you brush or floss? If yes, then you likely have sensitive teeth.

Some of the common causes of sensitive teeth include:

  • Tooth cavities (decay)
  • Teeth that have been chipped or fractured
  • Worn or outdated tooth fillings
  • Periodontal disease
  • Wearing away of the tooth enamel
  • Tooth roots that are exposed

When the teeth are healthy, the crowns of these structures, or the portions that exist just above your gum line, are protected by a durable layer of enamel. The tooth root is further protected under the gum line by a special layer known as cementum. Dentin is found just beneath the cementum and the enamel.

Dentin is not as dense as either cementum or enamel and it additionally contains small, hollow canals or tubes. When the protective cementum and enamel are lost, these microscopic tubules or canals allow sticky and acidic foods, and cold and heat to access the cells and nerves within the tooth. Dentin can additionally become exposed as the result of receding gums. This can lead to a condition known as hypersensitivity.

Fortunately, it’s possible to treat sensitive teeth. The manner in which tooth sensitivity is treated is generally determined by the underlying cause. The best strategy for preventing tooth pain caused by hypersensitivity is to practice proper oral hygiene. Talk to your dentist if you have any questions or concerns about tooth sensitivity or about your regular oral care.