Sensitive teeth: Five things you didn't know were causing you tooth pain

Ever get a tooth twinge when you have a cold drink or something sweet? Find out what causes it and what you can do to alleviate the pain...

sensitive teeth
(Image credit: Getty)

How do you stop sensitive teeth pain when you have a cold drink or something sweet? Find out what causes it and what you can do to alleviate the pain...

Is having sensitive teeth bad?

Tooth sensitivity affects 1 in 3 of us, making life a misery for many.

It occurs when the dentine beneath tooth enamel is exposed. Because dentine is packed with tiny, fluid-filled tubes that lead to the nerve, certain things like hot foods or drinks can affect the fluid movement, triggering a short, sharp pain.

Unfortunately, the process is irreversible so the condition is permanent. However, you can find out what's causing the pain and what you can do to alleviate it! Read on to discover the five things you didn't know were causing sensitive teeth, and what to do about it...

1. Over-zealous brushing

Yes, you can have too much of a good thing! Lots of people think the more vigorously they brush the better, but this can wear away your tooth enamel and gums. Unfortunately once the dentine under the enamel and gums is exposed you are likely to suffer from sensitive teeth. However, brushing twice a day every day with a desensitising toothpaste can help eliminate those sensitive teeth.

When it comes to the right way to brush your teeth, try to brush for at least two minutes and use gentle, circular movements. Focus on areas where plaque gathers, such as biting surfaces and where the teeth and gums meet.

2. Grinding your teeth

sensitive teeth


Lots of people grind their teeth at night, while others clench or grind their teeth during the day, without realising they are damaging their teeth. Regular grinding and clenching can wear down enamel and expose the underlying dentine, which can't be reversed. Using a desensitising toothpaste builds a protective layer over the vulnerable areas of your teeth, which relieves the pain and, with ongoing daily use, can prevent tooth sensitivity from coming back.

3. Acid erosion

When acid from food and drink comes into contact with teeth, the tooth's hard enamel surface can soften, making it easier for toothbrushing to wear it away. A number of different foods and drinks that could be causing acid erosion and sensitivity, but are you aware of all of them?

These include:

  • Citrus fruit
  • Juices and smoothies
  • Wine
  • Vinegar dressings
  • Fizzy drinks

Avoid brushing straight after acidic food and drinks to allow time for your enamel to re-harden.

4. Receding gums

sensitive teeth


Our gums tend to recede as we get older, but this can also be caused by vigorous brushing and gum disease. The result? Exposed dentine and painful tooth sensitivity. A good oral health routine of daily brushing and flossing will help your gums as well as your teeth.

Not as regular with flossing as you should be? Daily flossing is important as it gets rid of harmful plaque between the teeth and by the gum line, reaching areas a toothbrush can't. Remember to curve the floss around the base of each tooth, beneath the gumline and try not to saw with the floss, which can cause bleeding and irritation. Don't forget to use a desensitising toothpaste twice a day every day if you suffer from sensitive teeth, as it will help ease the pain.

5. Cracked tooth or cavities

Tooth sensitivity could be a sign that you have a cracked tooth or cavity that needs treatment. If you suspect this is the case, always see your dentist as soon as possible, who will advise on the best course of action.

Sibelle Mehmet
Junior Digital Writer

Sibelle Mehmet is a Junior Digital Writer at She joined the team in April 2019 and was her first job since completing a MA in Magazine Journalism at City, the University of London in the summer of 2019. Sibelle previously interned at a number of national titles including OK!, Heat, Closer, Mother & Baby, and The Times Newspaper magazine. She's written extensively about the latest celebrity, showbiz, and royal news.