What to Tell Your Patients If They Have Sensitive Teeth

Also known as dentin hypersensitivity or root sensitivity, sensitive teeth are a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Straightforward indications of sensitive teeth include the somewhat sharp sensation when one tooth or more are exposed to hot, cold, sweet or acidic foods and drinks, as well as when breathing in cold air. Luckily or not, however, tooth sensitivity can appear and also fade over time.

Among the most common causes of tooth sensitivity are periodontal disease and receding gums. The correlation between receding gums and tooth sensitivity cannot be overstated since nearly 80% of people develop it by the time they turn 65. So, when the tooth’s root becomes exposed, it becomes subject to the elements above – hot, cold, etc. And since the source doesn’t have the same enamel protection as the crown – only being covered by a soft covering called cementum – they are more vulnerable.

So, what can you tell your patients in regards to their sensitive teeth? Well, the answer boils down to the circumstances of each.

A Proper Diet

One advice you can provide your patients is that it generally relates to their diet. Acidic foods and drinks such as pickles, soda, citrus, added sugar, processed foods, etc., will dissolve the teeth’s surface enamel protection, exposing the dentin.

Fluoride Treatment

Additionally, you can also recommend them a fluoride treatment. It is performed by applying it to the sensitive areas which will strengthen the tooth’s enamel and reduce the sensation of pain. Adversely, you can also recommend the use of prescription fluoride to use at home and can be applied via a custom tray.

Desensitizing Toothpaste

Depending on the exact circumstances, you can tell your patients to use one of the many available over-the-counter desensitizing toothpaste products. After several applications, this type of toothpaste can help minimize or eliminate the pain associated with dentin hypersensitivity.

Bonding and Desensitizing

Under certain circumstances, exposed root surfaces can be treated by applying a bonding resin to the affected area. During this procedure, a localized, mild anesthetic might be required.

A Surgical Gum Graft

If your patient has lost some gum tissue, you could suggest them a surgical gum graft. This procedure implies the removal of a piece of gum from elsewhere and placing it onto the affected site, thus protecting the exposed root and reducing sensitivity in the area.

Root Canal

In the event of severe tooth sensitivity and pain, when other treatments prove ineffective, you can recommend a root canal. It may seem like a significant treatment and could cause your patient to be reticent to the plan. Let them know that this, by far, is the most successful technique for eliminating tooth sensitivity – especially when everything else doesn’t seem to work.


Like we mentioned in the beginning, tooth sensitivity can come and go. The best way to prevent its occurrence is via proper oral hygiene. You should explain to your patients to brush their teeth twice a day, the appropriate way to do so, as well as to use fluoride toothpaste and to floss daily. Advise them against rough toothbrushes, harsh brushing, and abrasive toothpaste. If the patient grinds their teeth, recommend a mouth guard, as tooth grinding can result in tooth fracture and sensitivity.


Though not necessarily a severe condition, tooth sensitivity can be a nuisance that affects people’s lives every day. For more information on the topic, as well as any information regarding a complete and comprehensive education program, visit the Dental Specialties Institute, Inc. website.