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What Are Sensitive Teeth?

Sensitive teeth have pain when they are exposed to hot or cold foods, brushing or flossing, cold, or air. You may also feel discomfort or a sudden flash of pain when eating sweet, acidic, or hot foods. The pain you feel may be due to receding gums, worn tooth enamel, or worn root surfaces. Healthy teeth are protected by strong enamel, cementum, and good gums.

A healthy tooth, showing healthy gums, protected dentin, strong enamel, and pain-free nerve

How teeth become sensitive

Enamel is the outer surface of the crown of the tooth. Cementum is the outer surface of the root of the tooth. The root is typically embedded in bone and covered by the gums. When enamel wears away or the gums recede, dentin or cementum can be exposed. Dentin is the inner layer of the tooth. It's normally covered by enamel and cementum. The most common cause of sensitive teeth is exposed dentin. Acidic foods can wear away the tooth surface. Heavy or incorrect brushing can wear away the surface and expose the dentin. Dentin is connected to the nerve that triggers pain in sensitive teeth. 

A sensitive tooth, showing receding gums, exposed dentin, worn enamel, and painful nerve

If you have sensitive teeth

See your dentist if you have sensitive, painful teeth. Your dentist will examine your teeth to find the cause of your tooth sensitivity and advise a treatment plan.

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