Dental Blog / Ouch! Why is my tooth so sensitive?

Ouch! Why is my tooth so sensitive?

Teeth are instrumental in helping chew, drink, smile and even talk. Most of the time, teeth go by unnoticed. And then you take a drink of your favorite cold soda, and your world turns upside down. Ouch!

What just happened? Your day was going along great, and now, you’re worried about your tooth! What could it be? How long will this last? Is this something I need to get checked? These are all great questions to ask yourself. Let’s dive in and see what the cause of your tooth sensitivity could be.


Cavities form when bad bacteria combine with food, acid and saliva to produce plaque. This sticky-like substance eats away at your tooth enamel and forms a hole. This is the cavity and one of the more common reasons for your teeth sensitivity. In fact, did you know 91% of Americans over 20 have had cavities at some point in their lives? That’s a lot! How do you know if you have a cavity? Tooth sensitivity is the first clue, but you can also visibly see these little holes when you look in a mirror. Brown, black or white staining is another visible indicator.

Tooth enamel erosion

Tooth enamel is the protective outer layer of your tooth. It’s considered the hardest substance in the human body! But that doesn’t mean it’s not subject to wear and tear. When enamel begins to erode, sensitivity to hot and cold substances becomes apparent. As noted above, plaque is one way tooth enamel is worn down. Another way is by grinding your teeth which often occurs when you’re sleeping, and you might not realize you’re doing it.

Gum recession

Receding gums is a common dental issue, but it can be difficult to identify on your own. The main cause of gum recession is gum disease or periodontal disease. This occurs when bad bacteria accumulate and begin to eat away at your gum tissue. If you brush your teeth too hard or use a toothbrush with hard bristles, this also will take away your gum tissue. Genetics also plays a role. Some people are born with gums that are too weak or thin.


Your body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy. And one of these changes you’ll feel occurs in the mouth with tooth sensitivity. It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the sensitivity but here are a few things to consider:

  • Increased blood flow to your gums
  • Morning sickness
  • Dietary changes
  • An irregular dental routine
  • An inflammatory response to your gums from hormonal fluctuations

Some of these are difficult to avoid and happen naturally. Do your best to keep a regular dental hygiene routine at home.

Cracked tooth or crown

Do you remember recently eating something hard? Crunching down on a piece of ice or hard candy can result in a chipped, cracked or fractured tooth. You may not notice anything at first until you chew on something again or drink something hot or cold. If the chipped tooth doesn’t penetrate the nerve, you may not feel anything at all. But it’s still important to get it checked out to ensure there wasn’t further damage you can’t see.

Whitening strips

If you’re a frequent user of at-home whitening strips, this could be the reason for your sensitivity issues. The main ingredient for most whitening strips is hydrogen peroxide. This by itself can lead to sensitivity. Also, if you eat or drink anything hot or cold right after you take the strips off, this will cause sensitivity issues. It’s important to follow the instructions of any product you purchase. If sensitivity continues, seek out a dentist.  

The dentist is your advisor

When you have questions about your teeth, there’s no better person to go to than your dental professional. Dentists can take X-Rays and evaluate your teeth to determine the cause of your sensitivity. They can provide an action plan for you to feel better. Here are some services they can provide from the examples given above:

  • Cavities: fillings or cap
  • Enamel erosion: Crown, inlay/onlay
  • Gum recession: Gum surgery
  • Pregnancy: Advice on how to limit your sensitivity
  • Cracked tooth: Filling, cap, crown or veneer
  • Whitening strips: Professional products or services to use

Dental insurance helps protect your smile and your wallet by getting you in to see your dentist at a discounted rate. It adds stability to your life knowing you’re always covered if something arises and you can get in to get your annual cleanings. Use the Direct Benefits Marketplace to choose from the top dental brands and find the dental solution you’re looking for today!