Teeth are often sensitive because the dentin layer of the tooth has become exposed. The dentin is the middle layer of the tooth. Above the gums, the dentin layer is normally covered by an outer layer, called the enamel, and, on the roots, cementum. Dentin contains millions of tiny tubes that extend from the nerves at the center of the tooth to the outer layer. When the dentin is exposed, these tubes are left open. Any stimulation at the surface of the dentin is transmitted through the tubes to the nerves, causing pain.

Abfraction occurs when one tooth hits sooner than the rest. This causes undue stress on the involved teeth, and they begin to flex. Over time, this continual flexing causes the enamel to separate from the dentin layer.

Many habits can wear away tooth enamel, such as brushing too hard, using a medium or hard bristled toothbrush, using an abrasive "tartar-control" or "whitening" toothpaste, and grinding or clenching your teeth. Some dental procedures may temporarily expose the dentin, leading to short-term sensitivity.

What causes sensitive teeth?
Sensitive teeth hurt with exposure to cold air, hot or cold food and beverages, or sweets. Sometimes it stops people from properly brushing and flossing their teeth. This can lead to more sensitivity, decay, infection, and even tooth and bone loss.

To determine the cause of your tooth pain, we'll first make sure that the pain isn't caused by decay, a broken tooth, or abscess. Then we'll continue the exam to find out how the dentin has become exposed.

Proper homecare is essential to taking care of sensitive teeth. We may recommend that you avoid high-acid and high-sugar foods, like tea, citrus, soda pop, and sports drinks, use a desensitizing toothpaste or mouthwash, use a soft-bristled toothbrush or electric toothbrush, or wear a nightguard if you clench or grind your teeth.