Common causes of sensitive teeth explored by our dentist Mackay

Does it hurt when you drink hot coffee? Or do you get a sharp sensation in one or more of your teeth when you eat ice cream?


Dental sensitivity, also known as tooth sensitivity, is a well-known condition that can affect millions of people globally. How do you know whether you have it? If you get a sharp, sudden pain or discomfort in the teeth when exposed to things such as high-sugar beverages, hot coffee, iced water or even acidic drinks like orange juice.

When you come to Northern Beaches Dental, our dentist Mackay will aim to reduce any dental sensitivity that you are having and will help you to prevent any further discomfort.

Sadly, there are various causes of dental sensitivity, and here are five common ones that our dentist Mackay sees.

Dental decay

Decay on a tooth, also known as a cavity, is the most common cause of dental sensitivity that our dentist Mackay encounters. It occurs when the enamel on the surface of the tooth is damaged, exposing the sensitive dentin underneath. The enamel can be damaged by the bacteria in plaque that produce acids that erode the enamel over time. The loss of enamel can lead to tooth decay, which causes sensitivity and pain when the teeth are exposed to certain stimuli.

Gum disease

Gingivitis, which is the inflammation of the gums and periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease, are both common causes of dental sensitivity. Gingivitis occurs when bacteria in plaque build up on the gums, causing inflammation and, eventually, damage to the tissue that supports the teeth. The receding gums can expose the roots of the teeth, which are not covered by enamel and are more sensitive to stimuli such as hot and cold foods and drinks.

Teeth grinding

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is constant pressure and friction on the teeth that can wear down the enamel, exposing the sensitive dentin underneath. This can lead to dental sensitivity and other problems, such as cracked or chipped teeth.

Dental procedures

Some dental procedures can cause temporary dental sensitivity. For example, teeth whitening treatments can cause sensitivity due to the use of bleaching agents that penetrate the enamel to remove stains. Other procedures like dental fillings, root canals, and extractions can also cause sensitivity due to the trauma to the tooth and surrounding tissues.

Acidic foods and drinks

Acidic food and drink like soda and orange juice can also cause dental sensitivity. The acid in these foods and drinks can erode the enamel, exposing the sensitive dentin underneath.

If you have sensitive teeth due to diet, our team will advise you to cut out the acid to help us restore your teeth.

How we treat dental sensitivity

The treatment for dental sensitivity depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, simply switching to a toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth may be enough to alleviate the discomfort. However, for more severe cases, we may recommend fluoride sealants and high-fluoride toothpaste (to rebuild damaged enamel), and, in very extreme cases, we may opt for veneers or root canals depending on the cause of the sensitivity.


All treatment carries risks. Individual consultation is required with one of our practitioners to ensure that the treatment is right for you.