That sharp unpleasant feeling you have when you brush your teeth or eat or drink anything hot or cold is known as dentinal hypersensitivity or, more commonly, tooth sensitivity.

In healthy teeth, enamel – the most mineralized layer of the tooth, protects the underlying layer of dentine. Dentin contains microscopic hollow canals called tubules. When the protective covering of enamel is lost, the dentinal tubules are exposed, which can lead to hypersensitivity.

In this article, Dr. Dennis Hahn, DDS, at Marine Hills Dentistry in Federal Way, Washington, recommends some treatment options that can help you prevent and eliminate tooth sensitivity.

At-Home Solutions for Tooth Sensitivity

Desensitizing Toothpaste

This is the most commonly used over-the-counter treatment for tooth sensitivity and usually requires consistent application. Desensitizing toothpaste contains potassium nitrate that helps block the transmission of pain sensations from the tooth to the brain.


Some types of mouthwash contain potassium nitrate and fluoride that reduce dentinal hypersensitivity but they are not as common as desensitizing toothpaste.

In-Office Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity

Fluoride Gels

Fluoride gels strengthen the tooth enamel and prevent the transmission of painful sensations from the tooth to the brain, reducing dentinal sensitivity.

Composite Resin

You can discuss with the dentist about using composite resin bonding to seal the dentinal tubules in order to prevent tooth sensitivity.

Potassium Nitrate

Potassium nitrate solutions are available in two forms: aqueous solution and adhesive gels. Potassium nitrate helps decrease the excitability of the nerves that transmit pain.

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy for the treatment of dentinal hypersensitivity works by either sealing the sensitive area or numbing it. Lasers are safe to use for tooth sensitivity and have no significant side effects.


The dentist may recommend a crown or inlay to seal the exposed areas of the tooth and treat tooth sensitivity.

In cases where these treatments are not effective or when several teeth are hypersensitive, a surgical gum graft or root canal treatment may have to be considered to reduce sensitivity.

To prevent hypersensitivity from occurring, you can:

  • Brush gently with a soft-bristled brush
  • Avoid excessive intake of acidic foods and beverages
  • Avoid clenching your teeth
  • Get your teeth treated for cavities, gum disease, or other dental issues

Healthy teeth make happy smiles. To learn more about treatment options for tooth sensitivity, contact Dr. Dennis Hahn at Marine Hills Dentistry by calling (253) 839-2800 or visiting us at 1500 S Dash Point Rd, Federal Way, WA 98003.

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