Dealing with Sensitive Teeth

Having sensitive teeth doesn’t mean giving up your favourite food and drinks. With some precautions, you can manage the condition

It is not uncommon to experience sudden, sharp pain while eating or drinking as a result of sensitive teeth. Fortunately, the pain is often temporary and in most cases, your dentist can help.


The dentine, which is the inner layer of a tooth, contains microchannels that lead to the pulp where the nerves are. This underlying dentine is protected by a tougher layer of enamel in a normal situation, with the remaining root dentine covered by gums.

Enamel wear (by attrition, abrasion and erosion), cavities, cracks and receding gums may lead to exposed dentine. When in contact with hot, cold, sweet or acidic food and drinks, as well as cold air, teeth sensitivity occurs.


Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. A toothbrush with hard bristles may wear down enamel and cause gums to recede.

Prevent gum disease as it can lead to bone loss and gum recession, which may then result in sensitive teeth. Make sure to visit your dentist as scheduled, on top of brushing and flossing daily.

Avoid chewing ice cubes or eating hard or brittle food as it may lead to a cracked tooth. Consuming too much acidic food or drinks may also erode the enamel.

Minimise the use of teeth whitening or bleaching products as this can wear down the enamel and lead to sensitive teeth.

Control teeth grinding. Wear a night guard made by your dentist if you grind your teeth while sleeping, as it can be damaging as well.


Use toothpaste for sensitive teeth. These can be purchased off-the-shelf from most pharmacies or supermarkets. They work by blocking the microchannels of exposed dentine.

Try professionally applied desensitising pastes/varnishes/sealants. Available at dental clinics, these are effective in targetting the exposed dentinal microchannels as well. The applications may wear off over time due to brushing and normal functioning of teeth, and can be reapplied during dental visits.

Fillings may be done for deeper abrasions and cavities. In most cases, there is immediate relief from sensitivity after the fillings are completed.

Gum grafting. Gum recession due to incorrect brushing can be resolved by a minor procedure of gum grafting and repositioning of the gums. Your dentist can assess if you are suited for this procedure.

In extremely severe cases of sensitive teeth and after all options have been considered, your dentist might recommend a root canal therapy for the affected tooth or teeth, based on your condition.