Blog Hero

Why Are My Teeth Sensitive All of a Sudden?

Book An Appointment
Woman holding her jaw in pain.

One minute, you’re savouring your favourite ice cream flavour; the next minute, you’re wincing in pain. Or perhaps it’s a cool breeze, a sip of hot tea, or brushing your teeth that sets off a sharp jolt in your mouth. Whatever the trigger, if you experience sudden tooth sensitivity, you’re not alone.

In fact, sensitivity is a common dental problem—one that can make you wonder if there’s an emergency. But why do teeth suddenly become sensitive? Why now, when you’ve never experienced it before? Some of the most common sources of sudden tooth sensitivity include:

  • Worn enamel
  • Receding gums
  • Tooth decay
  • Gingivitis/Gum disease
  • Cracked tooth

Your dentist can diagnose your tooth sensitivity with an exam and help you get on the fast track to comfort.

Worn Enamel

Enamel is the hard, protective layer covering the outside of your teeth. It’s the hardest substance in the human body and is designed to withstand wear and tear. However, nothing lasts forever, and enamel can become damaged and worn over time.

This wear and tear can expose the underlying layer of your tooth, called dentin. Dentin is full of tiny tubules that lead directly to the nerves. When these tubules are exposed, it can cause sensitivity and pain, especially when eating or drinking hot or cold things.

Using a toothbrush with hard bristles, grinding your teeth or brushing with too much force can cause enamel to erode faster. Consuming acidic foods and drinks can also erode enamel, especially if consumed frequently. 

Use a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste to help your enamel stay strong!

Receding Gums

Receding gums are when the gum tissue wears away or pulls back from the teeth, revealing the roots. The roots aren’t protected by enamel, so leaving them vulnerable to the elements is a straight line to sensitive teeth. Several factors can lead to receding gums, such as:

  • Gum disease
  • Genetics
  • Aging
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Aggressive brushing
  • Tooth grinding (bruxism)

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in your mouth feast on sugars and produce acid that eats away at your teeth. This creates cavities, which fill with even more bacteria, which causes even more tooth decay! As the cavity grows, it can eventually reach the tooth pulp, a jelly-like bundle of nerves and blood vessels. 

As you can imagine, your nerves aren’t fans of bacteria, and this can cause inflammation and tooth sensitivity.

Gingivitis/Gum Disease

Gum disease is caused by plaque buildup around the teeth’s base. When plaque is left to sit and hardens, it forms tartar, which creates deeper pockets. These early stages are called gingivitis.

Now, bacteria love these little pockets, and they create tiny little infections all along your gums. As the gum inflammation progresses, the gums can become loose from the teeth. This separation exposes the tooth root, also known as receding gums. And when the root is exposed, there’s a considerable chance that sensitivity will follow.

Therefore, gum disease increases the likelihood of tooth sensitivity.

Cracked Tooth

Cracking a tooth can be pretty easy, even if you’re not a huge fan of hard candy. Teeth can crack from grinding, sports accidents, chewing on ice, or due to natural wear and tear.

Once a tooth is cracked, it’s vulnerable to bacteria and can lead to infection, which can cause a lot of pain. But even if there’s no infection present, a crack can still lead to sensitivity. How? The crack opens up the inside of the tooth, revealing the nerves within and leaving them more susceptible to painful stimuli.

A cracked tooth can also attract bacteria, which can collect around the injury and cause further damage that may require a root canal. This is why getting a cracked tooth repaired as soon as possible is so important. Depending on the size, your dentist can use a filling or a crown to fix it.

The longer you wait, the more vulnerable your tooth becomes to infection and the more painful it can be.

A man flossing.

How to Treat Sensitive Teeth

One of the best ways to help avoid sensitive teeth is with good oral hygiene habits

  • Brush twice a day
  • Floss every day
  • Rinse with mouthwash

Limiting sugary and acidic foods and drinks is also essential, as they can contribute to many oral health issues.

If you want to indulge, that’s fine! Keep brushing, drink water to help wash away sugars, and, of course, get regular dental check-ups.

Oral Care & Comfort in Etobicoke

Sometimes, tooth sensitivity will vanish as quickly as it appeared. However, if it’s persistent, severe, or getting worse despite your best efforts, contact your dentist at Marks Dentistry. There may be an underlying dental issue, such as a cavity or gum disease, exacerbating your sensitivity.

Our dental team can assess the health of your teeth and recommend a course of treatment that can help alleviate your pain and protect your oral health. When tooth sensitivity comes on suddenly, don’t wait—book your appointment today!

Written by Dr. Jonah Marks

Dr. Jonah Marks received his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the Schulich School of Dentistry at the University of Western Ontario. During his time at Schulich, Dr. Marks volunteered at Schulich’s Dental Outreach Community Services, providing pro bono dental treatment to underprivileged patients in London, Ontario. He currently provides pro bono work for LAMP Community Health Care Centre and the Alpha Omega Dental Volunteer Program. In addition, Dr. Marks travelled to Nicaragua where he provided dental care in underserved communities.

More Articles By Dr. Jonah Marks
instagram facebook facebook2 pinterest twitter google-plus google linkedin2 yelp youtube phone location calendar share2 link star-full star star-half chevron-right chevron-left chevron-down chevron-up envelope fax