A recent study of nearly 800 individuals found that perhaps 1 in 8 individuals experiences tooth sensitivity. This reminds us that spontaneous tooth sensitivity is a common phenomenon.
A Survey of Dental Patients
The study was conducted in the US, with 37 dental practices surveying their patients. A total of 787 patients responded to the surveys. Results were published in the Journal of the American Dental Association. This study specifically defined tooth sensitivity as being unrelated to an objectively discernible cause, such as tooth decay, chipped tooth, or gum disease. Identifying risk factors for spontaneous sensitivity can help us understand why patients experience this type of sensitivity.
In addition to finding that 12% of the population reported spontaneous sensitivity, the study found that some people were at a much higher risk for sensitivity than others. Age is the primary risk factor for sensitive teeth People age 18-44 are 3.5 times more likely to report sensitive teeth. This is probably because they have thinner dentin, the layer of the tooth that separates the enamel, the outer surface of the tooth, from the tooth nerve, where pain is registered.
Women were also 1.8 times more likely to report sensitive teeth, but it isn’t known whether this is because their teeth were more sensitive or whether they were more likely to report it.
Receding gums and at-home teeth whitening were also listed as risk factors.
If Your Teeth Are Hurting You
Although this study highlights the role of spontaneous tooth sensitivity, it’s important to eliminate potential causes of tooth sensitivity. Chipped teeth and cracked teeth allow hot or cold liquids to penetrate close to or even into the dentin of your teeth, leading to sensitivity. Although chipping often occurs at the top of the tooth, sometimes a bad bite can put excessive force on your teeth, causing them to flex and crack where the tooth narrows at the neck, around the gumline.
Tooth decay can also cause sensitivity, and sometimes this decay occurs at the edge of an old filling. Sometimes a metal amalgam filling may itself be the cause of your sensitivity.
Gum disease can cause receding gums, exposing the tooth root, leading to sensitivity.
If we are unable to determine the cause of your sensitive teeth, we can recommend treatments that can reduce your sensitivity.