Sensitive Teeth » How to treat at home and when to see the dentist (2024)

Sensitive Teeth » How to treat at home and when to see the dentist (1)

What causes tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is usually caused by exposed dentine on your teeth. Teeth have 3 layers. Enamel is the outer shell, dentine is the middle layer, and the pulp is the inner most layer.

The pulp is the living part of the the tooth containing the nerve and blood supply. Dentine directly overlays the pulp and can be porous. When dentine gets touched, the nerves in the pulp can sense the change though the pores, and respond by sending a pain signal to your brain. This painful sensitive response is common, especially with hot, cold and sweet stimuli. The sensitivity is usually a sharp sensation and lasts just for the duration of exposure to the stimulus, but can sometimes linger for a few seconds.

Normally the dentine in your teeth is shielded by the outer layer of enamel or under the gum. Some things can however cause the enamel and/or gum to wear away and so expose the sensitive dentine:

Tooth decay

Dental decay can cause cavities through the enamel into the dentine.

Tooth wear and trauma

Overzealous brushing, acid from your diet or stomach, grinding your teeth and trauma can all cause enamel to wear away and expose sensitive dentine.

Defective dental restorations

A lost, leaking or broken filling, cap, crown, onlay, inlay, veneer or bridge can also expose dentine and cause tooth sensitivity.

Gum recession and gum disease

Gums naturally recede with age which exposes the root surfaces of teeth. The root surfaces do not have protective layer of enamel and so can be sensitive. This process of gum recession can be sped up with overzealous brushing. Conversely infrequent or inefficient brushing can cause gum disease which can also lead to gum recession.

Dental treatment

Some sensitivity following dental treatment is fairly normal. Especially after a scale or deep clean, after any drilling or placement of a new filling, and with tooth whitening. Most post-operative sensitivity resolves in 2-3 weeks. If you are experiencing severe sensitivity or there is no improvement after a couple of weeks then you should contact your treating dentist for advice.

How to treat tooth sensitivity

Treating sensitive teeth at home

Generally speaking, most ongoing tooth sensitivity is caused by gum recession and/or tooth wear. A good first line home treatment is to switch to an electric toothbrush, avoid scrubbing your teeth, and use a good sensitive toothpaste.

Sensitive toothpaste

Not all sensitive toothpastes are equally effective. Some work in different ways.

Colgate’s Sensitive Instant-Relief range and Sensodyne’s Repair and Protect range are some of the best sensitive toothpastes on the market.

Sensitive Teeth » How to treat at home and when to see the dentist (2)
Sensitive Teeth » How to treat at home and when to see the dentist (3)
Sensitive Teeth » How to treat at home and when to see the dentist (4)

Sensitive toothpastes are readily available in supermarkets and pharmacies. Be careful shopping online and in budget high street stores to avoid cheaper foreign versions which may not meet UK guidelines.

Sensitive toothpastes generally take a couple of weeks to work. If you find after 2-3 weeks that your sensitivity has gone then you may just need to continue using the sensitive toothpaste. If after 3 weeks, the sensitivity is no better, then you should definitely contact a dentist for further advice.

Sensitive Mouthwash

Some sensitive mouthwashes can work faster than sensitive toothpastes. Listerine’s Sensitive mouthwash can be effective after 3 days.

Sensitive Teeth » How to treat at home and when to see the dentist (5)

Treating sensitive teeth at the dentist

In order to treat tooth sensitivity effectively you really need to determine the cause. The best way to find the cause of and treat your tooth sensitivity is to book a checkup with your dentist.

If the cause of your sensitivity is dental decay, tooth wear, trauma, a crack or a problem with a dental restoration, or gum disease then you may need some dental treatment such as a new dental restoration, root canal treatment or special cleaning.

Dental decay, tooth wear and gum disease will likely require special advice on brushing and cleaning cleaning techniques, specific diet advice and/or further investigations by the dentist (and possibly also with your doctor).

Sometimes the dentist can apply a desensitising varnish or paste to your exposed dentine.

COVID-19 Impact

Currently, due to COVID-19, most NHS dentists are prioritising face-to-face appointments for emergencies. Depending how severe your tooth sensitivity is and the current demand on local services, your dentist may be able to help with your sensitivity over the phone or may advise you attend a face-to-face appointment. You should check your dentist’s website or call them for advice on booking an appointment.

NHS DentistFind an NHS dentist accepting new patients near you. You can also read our guide on How to register with an NHS dentist.

Emergency Dentist – Need an emergency dentist? Read our guide on How to access an NHS emergency dentist near you.

Sensitive Teeth » How to treat at home and when to see the dentist (2024)


Sensitive Teeth » How to treat at home and when to see the dentist? ›

You can address mildly sensitive teeth with desensitizing toothpaste and good oral hygiene. Severe teeth sensitivity caused by gum recession, cavities or cracked teeth may require treatment. Your dentist can help determine what's causing your sensitive teeth and recommend treatment to address the issue.

How do you fix sensitive teeth ASAP? ›

10 Easy Home Remedies to Get Relief from Sensitive Teeth
  1. Desensitizing Toothpaste. esensitizing toothpaste can help relieve pain and prevent it from traveling to your brain. ...
  2. Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash. ...
  3. Green Tea. ...
  4. Honey and Warm Water. ...
  5. Capsaicin. ...
  6. Turmeric. ...
  7. Saltwater Rinse. ...
  8. Vanilla Extract.
Sep 12, 2021

How do you deal with tooth pain until you can see a dentist? ›

OTC pain relievers may help, and rinsing with warm water may provide some relief. Try to avoid chewing on your sore tooth, and stick to soft foods. Avoid foods and drinks that are very hot, cold, or sweet.

When should I go to the dentist for tooth sensitivity? ›

When to see the dentist for sensitive teeth. Anytime sensitive teeth are a symptom of a larger issue that puts the long-term health of the tooth in jeopardy or causes an intolerable level of discomfort for an extended amount of time, it is time to visit the dentist for treatment.

What can dentists do for sensitive teeth? ›

Depending on the circ*mstances, your dentist might recommend:
  • Desensitizing toothpaste. After several applications, desensitizing toothpaste can sometimes help block pain associated with sensitive teeth. ...
  • Fluoride. ...
  • Desensitizing or bonding. ...
  • Surgical gum graft. ...
  • Root canal.

Can tooth sensitivity go away? ›

In some cases, teeth sensitivity goes away on its own — especially if it's due to a recent dental procedure, such as a filling or root canal. If you have teeth sensitivity that lingers and doesn't go away, talk to a dentist. You might have worn enamel or exposed teeth roots.

How long does it take for sensitive teeth to heal? ›

How long will the sensitivity last? Sensitivity from a tooth filling should go away within two to four weeks. If the sensitivity doesn't seem to be getting any better during that time, or it lasts for longer than four weeks, contact your dentist.

How to stop nerve pain in tooth at night? ›

5 Tips for Sleeping Through a Toothache at Night
  1. Take an Over-the-Counter Pain Reliever. For temporary relief, you can take a store-bought pain medication as directed on the label. ...
  2. Use a Cold Compress. ...
  3. Elevate Your Head. ...
  4. Watch What You Eat. ...
  5. Rinse Your Mouth.
May 7, 2021

Does Orajel work for tooth nerve pain? ›

Local anaesthetics like benzocaine, the active ingredient used in Orajel Toothache Gel, work by temporarily blocking the pain pathways along the nerves. This prevents the brain from receiving pain triggering signals. When Orajel is applied to a bothersome tooth it works quickly to offer lasting relief from pain.

How do I know if my tooth sensitivity is serious? ›

In more severe cases, a tooth's nerve may be dying. Try drinking a hot drink like tea or coffee to test your teeth's sensitivity. If you find that hot foods can sometimes cause your teeth to hurt then you know a visit to the dentist is definitely a must, because bacteria is most likely the cause.

What happens if you ignore tooth sensitivity? ›

If left untreated and unattended for too long, it can lead to many other health and dental problems like; receding gums, dental and enamel erosion, tooth decay, chronic gum disease and a chipped tooth, or in more serious cases, a tooth loss.

Is my tooth infected or just sensitive? ›

Signs you have an infected tooth include: Severe toothache. Sensitivity to hot and cold foods. Difficulty swallowing.

Which medicine is best for sensitive teeth? ›

Sensitive Teeth Pain Relief – Top OTC Medications for Sensitive Teeth
  • SenzAway Tooth Desensitizing Gel. ...
  • DenTek Instant Pain Relief Maximum Strength. ...
  • Crest Pro-Health Sensi-Stop Tooth Sensitivity Relief Strips. ...
  • Orajel Instant Pain Relief Cream. ...
  • Zilactin-B Oral Pain Reliever.
Jan 3, 2018

Does salt water help sensitive teeth? ›

5. Rinse with Salt Water. You can rinse your toothbrush with saltwater before brushing to help combat tooth sensitivity. The high concentration of salt will act as an antiseptic that kills the bacteria that may be causing tooth sensitivity!

Why did my teeth suddenly become sensitive? ›

Tooth sensitivity, according to the American Dental Association, is caused by tooth decay, a cracked tooth, worn tooth enamel, worn fillings or tooth roots that are exposed as a result of aggressive tooth brushing, gum recession, or periodontal (gum) disease.

Why are my teeth so sensitive all of a sudden? ›

Tooth sensitivity, according to the American Dental Association, is caused by tooth decay, a cracked tooth, worn tooth enamel, worn fillings or tooth roots that are exposed as a result of aggressive tooth brushing, gum recession, or periodontal (gum) disease.

Can you fix sensitive teeth at home? ›

If you already have sensitive teeth, you can still do things naturally to ease pain or discomfort. Natural remedies such as gargling warm salt water for about 30 seconds several times a day will help reduce inflammation in your gums and kill any bacteria that may be causing sensitivity issues in your mouth.

How to stop sensitive teeth pain immediately from whitening? ›

How Do You Treat Teeth Sensitivity After Whitening?
  1. Take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) ...
  2. Ask your dentist about potassium nitrate and sodium fluoride gel. ...
  3. Try a desensitizing toothpaste. ...
  4. Switch to a soft-bristled brush. ...
  5. Avoid cold beverages—or drink through a straw.

Why are sensitive teeth so painful? ›

These stimuli can include hot or cold temperatures, sweet or acidic foods and drinks, or even brushing and flossing. If you've ever felt sudden tooth discomfort after eating something hot or cold, you may have sensitive teeth. This occurs when the underlying layer of your teeth (dentin) becomes exposed.

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