Tips For Managing Tooth Sensitivity

sensitive teeth

According to a survey by Health Canada from 2007-2009, 12% of Canadians reported they had ongoing pain in their mouth in the past year. Though those statistics may have changed in the past 15 years, the fact remains: Tooth sensitivity is a serious problem for many Canadians.

There’s good news—you can manage or eliminate tooth sensitivity. These tips will help:

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

To understand how to manage tooth sensitivity, it’s important to understand where tooth sensitivity comes from. 

Your tooth is made up of layers of material—the top layer, your tooth enamel, protects your nerves from most sensations. When the enamel is worn away, the lower level, called dentin, becomes exposed. There are hollow channels in your dentin called tubules—these tubules can transmit sensations like heat and cold to the nerves in your teeth. Exposed tooth roots can also cause sensitive teeth. 

Tooth sensitivity can be caused by:

  • Brushing too hard, especially when using coarse brush.
  • Gum recession (which exposes your tooth’s roots)
  • Gum disease
  • Cavities
  • Tooth grinding (bruxism)
  • Some tooth whitening products
  • Acidic foods
  • Certain dental procedures

Effective Dental Care Practices for Tooth Sensitivity

The practices you’ll use to reduce tooth sensitivity should address the root cause—your tooth’s nerves being exposed to stimuli. Here are some of the steps you can take to reduce sensitivity:

  • Brushing regularly and drinking fluoridated water can help build up your tooth’s enamel. 
  • Using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Visiting the dentist regularly can help you catch cavities early.
  • Regular teeth cleanings can reduce your risk of cavities and strengthen your enamel.
  • A night guard can help reduce tooth grinding. 

Choosing the Right Toothpaste

When looking to prevent tooth sensitivity, many people will reach for desensitizing toothpaste. In addition to fluoride, which helps build back your enamel, these toothpastes may contain ingredients that block pain sensors, like potassium nitrate.

While desensitizing toothpaste can alleviate the symptoms of sensitive teeth, and fluoride can help build back your enamel, there may be other underlying causes for sensitivity. We recommend visiting your dentist if you have chronically sensitive teeth so that they can address the underlying causes. 

Dietary Considerations for Tooth Sensitivity

Some foods and drinks can exacerbate sensitivity. When you have sensitive teeth, you should avoid foods that are very hot or very cold, like soup or ice cream. You should also avoid drinking acidic foods, like soda pop or wine. Acidic foods can also wear away at your tooth enamel, so there are two good reasons to avoid them.  

Consuming too many sugary foods can promote cavities, and biting on tough or hard foods like jawbreakers can damage your teeth and increase wear and tear. These foods should be avoided or consumed in moderation at the best of times, especially when you have sensitive teeth. 

Professional Treatments and Procedures

There are several different professional treatments that can help you with your sensitive teeth—the treatment you choose will depend on the cause of tooth sensitivity. These treatments can include:

  • Fluoride treatments to strengthen your enamel
  • Fillings to eliminate cavities
  • A root canal
  • A surgical gum graft for heavily receding gums
  • Clinical grade desensitizer application
  • Bonding treatments

All of these treatments can help decrease sensitivity and oral pain, depending on the circumstances. Routine visits to the dentist can also help prevent sensitivity from occurring in the first place. 

Preventive Measures for Tooth Sensitivity

The preventive measures you can take to stop sensitive teeth and tooth pain from occurring or getting worse are quite simple:

  • Brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste twice a day. 
  • Floss once a day.
  • Visit your dentist twice a year for teeth cleanings.
  • Avoid using whitening toothpaste if you’re concerned about enamel erosion.
  • Consume acidic and sugary foods in moderation.
  • Visit your dentist if you start to experience sensitive teeth.


By taking the steps outlined here, you can manage sensitive teeth, prevent sensitivity from occurring in the first place, and address any concerns you might have by talking with your dentist. You can reduce or eliminate tooth sensitivity and the problems that cause it—and by reading this, you’ve already taken the first step!