Tooth sensitivity: Your ultimate guide

Our team of dentists and hygienists share everything you need to know when you can't stand the cold, sweets, or pressure. Read on.

When your teeth experience sensitivity, it can consume every waking thought. You can experience sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks, sweets and sugars, or pressure. Sensitivity is a sign that the dentin, the sponge-like material below your enamel, is exposed. In this guide we'll go through everything you need to know if your teeth are feeling sensitive to cold, sweets, or pressure.

If you experience tooth sensitivity, you aren't alone. More than 50% of US adults have sensitive teeth. "Tooth sensitivity is a signal that your dentin is exposed," explains Dr. Kevin Walker, DDS. "It's important to take the right steps if you experience sensitivity, that way you can catch the issue early and address it efficiently and effectively."

So what does it mean if you experience sensitivity? What if sweets hurt your teeth? Or biting down? Or cold drinks? We created this guide on the different types of sensitivity to provide insight into what is happening in your mouth, and what the right steps are to take. Whether eating your favorite dessert feels like torture, or an ice cold drinks sends the wrong shivers down your back, or the thought of biting into lunch makes you cringe, this guide is for you.

Permanent crown sensitive to hot and cold? Here's why

Whether you just got your first crown (welcome to the club 👋), or you've had a permanent crown for decades, this is for you. Sensitivity and discomfort are common side effects with temporary crowns and when a new permanent crown is seated (placed in your mouth). But sensitivity can start years after you get your crown.

Even though your crown isn't a normal tooth, it still requires love and care in your hygiene routine. "It's a common misconception that you don't need to take care of your crowns because they aren't 'real,'" shares Iman Zayed, RDH. "But it's important to take care of those crowns just as much as with your real teeth. If not cleaned properly, biofilm can still build up on the crown which can lead to issues like bad breath, plaque, and gum recession." And if you don’t take care of your crowned tooth you run the risk of getting a cavity below the crown and needing to spend the time (and money) restoring it. 

In this post we unpack what could be behind the sensitivity, and when to contact your dentist. Read more 📖

Teeth sensitive to sugar?

The summer is here which means it's ice cream season. You bite into your favorite flavor and ⚡ ZING ⚡ tooth sensitivity strikes. It's a painful feeling that makes eating your favorite treats and desserts a scary experience. The good news is tooth sensitivity is often addressable at home with the right professional guidance and at-home hygiene products.

Tooth sensitivity is caused when your dentin - the layer of tooth beneath your enamel, is exposed. Dentin is very porous (like a sponge). When air, liquid, or foods reach the dentin they sneak into the pores and find their way to the sensitive pulp of your tooth. When anything touches the inside of your tooth, the nerves are stimulated and send a "zinging" sensation through the tooth.

There are two reasons why your dentin might be exposed. First, the enamel (the hard structure on the outside of your tooth) is wearing down or eroding. Second, your gums are receding and exposing the dentin that sits below your gum line.

In this post we'll dive deeper into what causes your teeth to become sensitive to sweets, and what you can do from home to reduce that zing. Ready to make biting into a popsicle a reality? Read more 📖

Listerine sensitivity? Why some products hurt your teeth.

It's a cruel twist of fate when your teeth become sensitive to your daily oral care products. Swish around that mouthwash and arrrrgh 😖 it stings! Apply that toothpaste that's supposed to help with sensitivity and yowza 😵! These products are supposed to keep your teeth healthy, but somehow they are making you cringe instead. What gives? 

Many mouthwashes, like Listerine and Scope, are alcohol-based. The alcohol kills some bacteria (like pouring rubbing alcohol on a scrape) and leaves your mouth feeling sterile, but that same alcohol will also dry out your mouth. And dry mouth causes a host of oral health issues because you don't have enough saliva to wash away bacteria. So that temporary cleanse may end up creating more bacteria in the long run. 

Your dental hygiene products can trigger sensitivity, especially if those products aren't quite right for your mouth. In this post our clinicians weigh in on how to make sure your products are working well for you. Read more 📖

Tooth sensitive to pressure? Here's why

When your teeth are sensitive to pressure, it can be the only thing on your mind. You chew with caution, trying to avoid the tooth that hurts. And even talking can feel like a minefield as you negotiate the words that can accidentally make your teeth touch. 

Enamel hypersensitivity is the most common reason that teeth hurt under light pressure or lots of pressure. Enamel hypersensitivity is caused when your dentin - the layer of tooth beneath your enamel, is exposed. The soft and sponge-like dentin surrounds the sensitive pulp of your tooth. When this happens, biting down stimulates the nerves and triggers a painful response

You shouldn't have to summon all your courage to bite into breakfast. In this post our clinicians reveal what makes your teeth sensitive to pressure, and the right course of action to address and reverse it. Read more 📖

Got tooth sensitivity questions? 🤔

Let us know if you have other questions about tooth sensitivity! You can drop your question in the chat anytime - our clinical team is excited to hear what you want to know and develop more resources that will be useful to you.

Tooth sensitivity is something we help hundreds of patients address everyday. "I used to run at the sight of a popsicle, but after a few months with Wally I bit into my first popsicle in years!" shared one happy patient. If you're interested in addressing sensitivity from home, get your at-home starter kit, part of your 30-day free trial, and connect 1:1 with your virtual hygienist to discuss any sensitivity and what you can do about it.

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