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Teeth sensitivity - Reasons and treatments when teeth react to pain and cold

Whether a delicious ice cream in summer or a freshly brewed coffee in the morning, for many people this is a great pleasure. But when it comes to teeth being sensitive to pain and cold, you''ll find things different. Affected people suddenly experience a piercing pain running through their teeth. Eating sweet and sour food can also be very unpleasant. According to estimations about 25% of people suffer from sensitive teeth.

Causes and treatment options will be explained below.

Why do teeth become sensitive to pain and cold?

Healthy teeth are covered with a hard layer of enamel that protects the underlying dentin, which is traversed by small dentin tubules. These channels contain pain-sensitive nerves. The gingival tissue lies around the dentin to protect it. If the protection gets damaged, external stimuli are no longer blocked and leads to the tooth nerve, resulting in sudden pain. For example, in the case of sensitive teeth, heat and cold are conducted unhindered into the tooth via the tiny dentin tubules, which irritates the tooth nerve. Reasons for sensitive teeth are very different, for example:

  • exposed tooth necks&mdash as the most common cause. Here stimuli are transmitted directly into thetooth.
  • reduction of gingival tissue or damaged enamel so that the dentin tubules are exposed in the tooth.
  • Caries which has penetrated deeply into the tooth so that the tooth loses its protective coating.
  • diseases such as gingivitis or periodontitis that attack the gingiva
  • changes causing by inflammation within the oral cavity such as pulp inflammation
  • Sensitive teeth due to lack of oral hygiene

Diseases such as caries, gingivitis or periodontitis usually result from poor or incorrect oral hygiene. If plaque and tartar accumulate on the tooth and is not regularly removed, tooth decay is likely to attack the enamel and cause sensitive teeth. Inflammation causes the gingiva to swell so that it can be easily lifted from the tooth and the dentinal tubules on the neck of the tooth are freely accessible. The possible consequences are pain from heat, cold, acid or sweets.

Incorrect tooth brushing as a cause of sensitive teeth

The most common reasons for sensitive teeth also include incorrect tooth brushing techniques, such as pressing on the toothbrush too firmly and brushing the teeth with scrubbing movements. This exposes the gingival tissue to considerable mechanical friction. Tiny wounds develop, exposing the tooth necks and making the teeth sensitive to pain.

Incorrect nutrition favours pain-sensitive teeth

As a result of incorrect nutrition, the enamel layer often becomes progressively thinner. For instance, if many acidic foods and beverages are consumed, the enamel is often attacked due to the acids they contain. Over time, the enamel is eroded, becomes thinner and thinner and eventually dissolves completely. Consequently, the tooth is no longer sufficiently protected. Soft drinks are particularly dangerous when it comes to beverages. In addition to acid, sugar also degrades tooth enamel.

Injuries and diseases causing tooth damage

Various diseases also do promote the destruction of tooth enamel, for example regular acid reflux, low salivary flow and gastrointestinal problems. In addition, hypersensitivity can occur when the enamel is rubbed off by teeth grinding.

What treatment options are available for pain-sensitive and cold-sensitive teeth?

Treatment depends on the diagnosis: exposed tooth necks, for example, can be treated with fluoride varnishes, special plastics or lasers. Inflammations must be remedied in order to avoid consequential damage to the teeth and the periodontium. To prevent sensitive teeth, it is important to use the right toothbrush. It should have soft or medium-hard bristles so that the gums and enamel are not damaged. It is also important to change your toothbrush regularly, as many bacteria accumulate on the bristles that can cause dental infections. Furthermore, there are toothpastes especially for sensitive teeth, which can be purchased freely and can relieve hypersensitivity. These toothpastes contain fluorides and other desensitizing agents. They coat the tooth necks and strengthen the natural protective layer. For sensitive teeth, it is best not to use whitener toothpaste, because it contains abrasives that additionally attack and damage the teeth. Dentists recommend a gentle and circular brushing movement from the gum to the tooth, i.e. from "red to white“.


The dentin is the most important component of the tooth. Inside there is a cavity where nerve fibres and blood vessels run. The tooth neck and enamel protect the teeth. If the gums recede, the neck of the tooth is often exposed, causing the tooth to react sensitively to external stimuli such as cold, heat, acid and sugar causing pain. It is important to identify the problem, treat the disease that causes it, or eliminate other triggers such as a wrong brushing technique.

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