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Causes and Treatment for Sensitive Teeth

Man eating ice cream holding jaw because of sensitive tooth. Waynesville NC Dentist.
Don’t delay dealing with sensitive teeth!

Ever get an “OWWIEE!” when eating something cold or sweet? Sensitive teeth are bothersome and can cause a great deal of discomfort. Following are several possible causes of sensitive teeth and their associated treatments.

Gum Recession

Receding gums leave the root surfaces exposed, allowing temperature changes to be transmitted directly to the nerve through microscopic tubules in the tooth. Gum recession is often present in those who had orthodontic treatment in youth, aggressive brushers, maturing individuals, and those with gum disease.

Treatment: Toothpastes for sensitive teeth act by blocking the tubules in the root surface by chemical reaction and are recommended as a first line of defense. Other cases may require professional application of an in-office desensitizer, and sometimes the root surfaces must be bonded with resin filling material.

Cracked Tooth

Most adults have dealt with a cracked tooth or two, as this commonly occurs through normal wear and tear of the teeth. Teeth with large fillings are particularly prone to cracking, and cycling between hot and cold items, as well as items such as hard candies and ice can lead to cracked teeth.

Treatment: These teeth generally need a protective helmet, also known as a crown or cap. If the nerve has been sufficiently traumatized, root canal therapy may be indicated.


Enamel is the hardest substance in the body, but a break in this surface caused by acids can expose the underlying dentin. The acids are the by-product of the bacteria that comprise dental plaque.

Treatment: The decayed section of tooth must be removed and replaced with a dental filling material. If the decay is large or deep enough, the tooth may again require a crown and/or root canal therapy.


Grinding your teeth puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the small ligaments which anchor the tooth in the jawbone. This can cause inflammation around the roots of the teeth, leading them to become sensitive to biting, as well as changes in temperature.

Treatment: Many cases require a mouth guard that acts as a shock absorber against the forces of clenching. Severe clenching and grinding can lead to cracked teeth which must be treated as stated above.

If you are experiencing any of the afore-mentioned symptoms, do not delay in having a dental examination. Early treatment is always ideal and can prevent more extensive, as well as expensive dental treatment! Dr. Michael Gillespie has practiced dentistry for 25 years and has been named Best Dentist in Waynesville, NC multiple times!

Michael D. Gillespie, DDS

Michael D. Gillespie, DDS