Sensitive Teeth

As a trusted Kansas City children’s orthodontist, Kurt Kavanaugh Orthodontics proudly offers a variety of orthodontic treatments, from metal and ceramic braces to Invisalign — we do it all! However, we also realize it’s not just important to have a beautiful smile you love — we want to help you keep that confident smile healthy, too! But, according to one nation-wide study, there is a common dental pain affecting nearly 50% of the American population — tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity is a sharp, often sudden pain experienced when a tooth is exposed to certain outside stimuli. However, before we discuss treatment for sensitive teeth, let’s first understand what causes teeth to become sensitive.

Root Cause

A healthy tooth’s outermost layer is made of enamel, which helps to protect the inner layers of a tooth. The layer directly under the enamel, called dentin, is a calcified tissue which surrounds the tooth’s pulp. However, sometimes enamel can be worn away and dentin may become exposed in areas, leaving it vulnerable to external stimuli — which in turn causes a sudden, painful reaction.

Triggers for Tooth Sensitivity

Knowing the types of stimuli that will trigger tooth sensitivity is helpful in managing oral discomfort. Some of the most common triggers of tooth sensitivity are:

  • Temperature — exposure to hot or cold beverages, such as coffee or water, or sudden exposure to extremely hot or cold air.
  • Tactile — the exposed dentin coming into contact with a toothbrush or dental instrument.
  • Sugars and Acids — consuming sugary or acidic food and drink.

Reasons Your Teeth May Be Sensitive

At Kavanaugh Orthodontics, we know that understanding behaviors that can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel is important in preventing the development of sensitive teeth — or managing the pain if you already suffer from tooth sensitivity. That’s why we’ve put together the following quick list of behaviors that contribute to tooth sensitivity:

  • Brushing too hard — when brushing your teeth (twice a day!), make sure you brush gently and use a soft bristled toothbrush. Brushing too forcefully can wear down enamel over time.
  • Teeth grinding — if you tend to grind your teeth in your sleep, this will quickly wear down tooth enamel.
  • Gum disease — gum (periodontal) disease causes the gum line to recede, leaving dentin exposed.
  • Acidic food or drink — acids in some food and beverages can erode enamel, leaving dentin exposed.
  • Chipped or cracked teeth — leads to exposed dentin.


The good news is, although painful, tooth sensitivity is easily treated. In fact, it’s possible to notice an improvement in tooth sensitivity in as quickly as a few days with some treatments. These treatments include:

  • Brushing twice daily with a desensitizing toothpaste — this will help protect the exposed dentin by working to block it off from outside stimuli.
  • Avoid aggressive brushing and use a soft bristled toothbrush.
  • Wear a mouthguard at night to prevent teeth grinding.
  • Make regular dental visits! This is important in the treatment and prevention of sensitive teeth. Your dentist may also suggest other treatments, such as the use of fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel, or procedures such as bonding or root canals.

Schedule an Appointment with your Kansas City Area Orthodontist Today!

It’s important to understand your oral health situation before thinking about beginning any orthodontic treatment. Kavanaugh Orthodontics will gladly help address any questions or concerns you may have prior to beginning a braces or Invisalign treatment plan. As your go-to orthodontist serving the Kansas City and Sedalia, MO areas, we’re always here to help! Contact us today or fill out our quick online form to schedule your appointment. We look forward to serving you!