A tooth is sensitive when you feel pain in doing certain activities like eating food, brushing, eating sweet things, hold or cold.  This tooth sensitivity can be temporary lasting for a few seconds to minutes or it can be prolonged, lasting from longer duration to hours leading to painful situations.         

Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity:


One can experience pain while eating food especially hot and cold. It can be temporary shooting pain that can last for a few seconds to minutes or in some cases it can last longer.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity:

There can be several causes of tooth sensitivity and treatment varies depending on the cause of sensitivity. But it can take time to treat a sensitive tooth.  


When the underlying cause is the decay of the tooth (caries) the cause of sensitivity can be an exposed surface of the tooth which was previously covered with enamel.  This covering layer of enamel, which usually protects the tooth from sensitivity, is absent because the decay of the tooth has damaged a part of the enamel, exposing the underlying tooth structure which is sensitive to various things and temperatures.   

Caries infection causing tooth sensitivity
Enamel Caries Infection

In other cases, the decay of the tooth can also lead to underlying infection which triggers tooth sensitivity or pain on getting after getting in contact with cold, hot, or sweet things.     

Treatment can be simply filling up (restoring) the cavity with a suitable material (Dental Restoration) or by doing root canal treatment.  In severe cases, the tooth needs to be extracted.   

Broken tooth

A broken tooth can expose the second layer of tooth (Dentin) or blood vessels which can cause sensitivity.  

Broken tooth
Pain in Broken Tooth

Exposed roots

Exposed roots because of lowered gum lines can be another reason for having sensitivity. This happens because unlike the crown the tooth roots are not protected by enamel.  Exposed roots are only covered by dentin which is the sensitive part of the tooth.

Structural Damage

Exposed tooth surface because of tooth damage can expose the underlying blood vessels and nerves causing pain and/or sensitivity. 

Attrition (worn out) of tooth

Same as exposed roots when the crown portion of tooth worn out due to age or other reasons, the enamel layer can get thin or can expose the underlying dentin layer. 


Dental caries, damage to the tooth, tooth fracture, or other underlying problems can lead to tooth infection which can in turn lead to sensitivity.  Infection can be in the form of swelling, fluid accumulation, abscess formation

Recent dental cleaning (scaling)

Dental scaling can thin out the layer of enamel or can make the surface rough making it sensitive heat and cold. 


This is why scaling is usually followed by polishing regardless of the type of scaling. Polishing helps to reduce post-operative (after treatment) sensitivity of teeth helping the patient to comfortably return to normal life immediately after completing the treatment.  Polishing also helps to restore the smooth and glossy surface of the tooth which gets a little rough because of scaling.

Treatment of Tooth Sensitivity

Sensitive teeth can be treated by treating the underlying cause. In other words; treatment depends on the cause of tooth sensitivity.

Dental Filling

In the case of caries; cleaning up caries and then providing a dental restoration (dental filling) can heal the sensitivity.

Dental Sealant

In case of a broken tooth, repairing the tooth with a dental restoration or applying a layer sealant to block the open of dentinal tubules can be the line of treatment.

Desensitizing Toothpaste

Sensitivity due to the worn-out teeth and recent dental scaling can be fixed by using a desensitizing toothpaste.