Tooth sensitivity affects 1 out of 5 adults. It occurs when the enamel is worn down until a different tooth structure called dentin is exposed. Dentin is comprised of thousands of fluid filled, microscopic tubules that contain cells called odontoblasts. Pain and sensitivity is felt when an odontoblast moves from a change in temperature, pressure, or pH in the mouth. Sweet or acidic foods like oranges and lemons commonly cause sensitivity.
Sensodyne toothpaste is effective at reducing minor tooth sensitivities. It contains a product called potassium nitrate that clogs the microscopic tubules of the dentin, temporarily sealing the dentin from external irritants. Professional desensitizing agents or dental restorations can also decrease sensitivity. It is important to remember that the application of these desensitizing agents is addressing the symptoms and not the cause of the sensitivity. Often times a splint or night guard must be worn over the teeth to reduce excessive wear of the enamel and to limit gum recession.