Damaged teeth

This includes cracked, chipped and broken teeth which can lead to sensitivity. Teeth become damaged over time which is due to a variety of factors such as age, contact sports, trauma, dental conditions such as tooth decay and even some dental procedures such as teeth whitening.

We start out with a uniform set of teeth but they soon show signs of wear and tear. For example, a tooth can become damaged quite easily, for example if you fall over and chip a tooth. Another likely cause is biting down on something hard which then cracks a tooth.

Tooth decay and/or gum disease are another factor. Both of these result in damage to a tooth which eventually leads to tooth loss if left untreated.

A broken tooth allows bacteria to enter which then travel towards the soft inner centre or pulp. If they do then they will cause an infection in this area which can lead to an abscess. But this infection alone will cause sensitive teeth.

Bruxism

Another way of damaging your teeth is teeth grinding or ‘bruxism’. Bruxism is where someone grinds their teeth together whilst they sleep which causes pain and sensitivity. If they do this continually then it leads to a gradual wearing down of the enamel surface which exposes the sensitive middle layer of the tooth.

This causes sensitive teeth and is discussed in more detail as a separate section. Find out more in our Teeth grinding section.

Broken filling

A cracked or broken filling is another cause of sensitive teeth.

A filling is a substance inserted into a tooth to prevent further spread of tooth decay. The material used for the filling is either the traditional silver amalgam type or the newer composite filling: the composite filling is ‘tooth coloured’ so that it matches the rest of your natural teeth.

But if you have recently had a filling done then this can cause sensitivity. Sensitive teeth are a common feature of a dental filling especially if it is the silver amalgam version which may be due to the heat conducting properties of the material used. Plus a new filling can affect your ‘bite’ (the opening and closing of the jaws) which puts pressure on the teeth, causing them to become sensitive.

A broken or lost filling is another possibility. A filling can become chipped, broken or fall out which then exposes the dentin (middle layer) of the tooth. A filling usually covers the dentin which reduces the risk of sensitive teeth but if this is damaged in any way then the opposite occurs.