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Ouch! Sensitive Teeth in Kids and How to Address the Discomfort.


If your child complains of pain when eating or drinking hot or cold foods, or if they refuse to brush their teeth unexpectedly, they may have a sensitive tooth. In most cases, sensitive teeth are caused by worn away enamel, which exposes nerves in the tooth or gums. This exposure can cause a lot of pain, not only when eating or drinking, but while brushing, flossing or even smiling!


Here are some of the most common reasons - and treatments - for sensitive teeth. Most of the time, the sensitivity is temporary, but if it persists or you have questions, make an appointment with us for an evaluation.


Common reasons for sensitive teeth in children

  • New teeth. When a new tooth comes in or a baby tooth falls out, the new tooth can cause pain while it pushes through the gums.

  • Tooth decay (cavities). If the sensitivity is coming from one area in your child’s mouth, it could be a cavity. The tooth decay starts with enamel eroding away and looks like a white spot. If the cavity continues to grow, the spot’s color will darken and cause more sensitivity and pain to your child’s tooth. If this is the case, call us to make an appointment.

  • Brushing too hard. When a toothbrush has bristles that are too hard for your child’s mouth or teeth are brushed with too much enthusiasm, it can erode tooth enamel and expose nerves.

  • Too much sugar. An excessive amount of sugar, without enough brushing, can break down the enamel that protects teeth and lead to sensitivity.

  • Broken or chipped tooth. Children can break or chip a tooth by falling, grinding or clenching their teeth. Grinding can cause tiny cracks and fractures, which can make teeth sensitive and chewing painful. Common reasons a child might grind their teeth include coping with growing pains, misaligned teeth, incoming teeth, hyperactivity, stress or anxiety.

  • Sinus infection. Believe it or not, a sinus infection or allergies can cause tooth sensitivity from built up pressure. Typically the pain is centered in the roof of the mouth, along with other common sinus symptoms like a stuffy nose or headache.

  • Dental procedure. Sometimes after a procedure like a tooth filling or root canal, a tooth can be sensitive to hot or cold food or breathing in cold air. If it endures more than a couple of days, it can imply an infection and you should call us right away.


Treatments for sensitive teeth

  • Ibuprofen or Tylenol. To temporarily relieve the pain caused by a sensitive tooth, over the counter pain relievers can help.

  • Softer toothbrush and brushing more gently. When brushing teeth, use gentle, circular motions with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brushing only from side-to-side wears enamel away faster.

  • Toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. Desensitizing toothpaste contains compounds that help block the transmission of sensation from the tooth to the nerve. It may take a few brushes before the sensitivity is reduced.

  • Minimize sugary snacks. Instead of eating sugary snacks like cookies, candy, and juices, or processed foods that typically contain excessive sugar, eat crunchy fruits and vegetables, wholegrain crackers, nuts, and dairy items like cheese and yogurt.

  • Decrease teeth grinding. Many times, teeth grinding and its impacts can be treated with hydration (dehydration can cause nighttime teeth grinding), a stress-free bedtime ritual, avoiding evening sugar and screen time, and regular checkups with your pediatric dentist.

  • Dental treatment. Sometimes a sensitive tooth requires a dental procedure such as a filling, fluoride treatment, etc. If you are not sure, give us a call and we can assess the sensitive tooth.


Whether tooth sensitivity is temporary or requires a dental procedure, there is no substitute for a healthy daily oral routine. Brushing and flossing twice a day, along with a low sugar diet, can provide the best protection against tooth decay and sensitivity.


Sources: Colgate, MouthHealthy, Healthline, WebMD, Dentistry for Kids

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