Sensitive Teeth? Get ‘Em Checked Out

Dentin hypersensitivity with no underlying medical condition relatively common

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It turns out a lot of people have sensitive teeth. Some people have actual dental problems, but others are just sensitive. At-home teeth whitening kits may increase sensitivity risks.

A recent study tested the teeth sensitivity of a group of dental patients.

The researchers found that over half of the group reported sensitivity, but only 12 percent had no underlying medical reason for the dental sensitivity.

The study results showed that women under the age of 65 who had receding gums and had used at-home teeth whitening kits were most likely to report dental sensitivity.

"Consult a dentist before using at-home teeth whitening kits."

Joana Cunha-Cruz, DDS, PhD, research assistant professor in the School of Dentistry at the University of Washington in Seattle, led a research project to investigate cases of sensitive teeth in adults in the United States.

For the study, 787 adult patients from 37 general dental practices in the Northwest region of the US were asked about pain they experienced in their teeth. In addition, dentists involved in the study used a one-second air blast to each tooth to test pain responses of the patients.

Before ruling out underlying conditions, 63 percent of the participants reported dental sensitivity. But after adjusting for underlying dental conditions, 12 percent of participants reported teeth sensitivity in an average of three to four teeth.

Participants between 18 and 44 years of age were more likely to report dental sensitivity than those 65 years or older. Women reported more dental sensitivity than men.

People with receding gums reported more dental sensitivity than people without receding gums.

People who used at-home teeth whitening kits reported more dental sensitivity than those who did not use at-home kits.

Aggressive brushing habits and crooked bites were not associated with dental sensitivity.

The authors recommended that dentists be sure to rule out any underlying causes to dental sensitivity.

Many of the patients with dental sensitivity tried at-home or in-office treatments to reduce the sensitivity.

At-home methods were used by 22 percent of patients with sensitivity, but 57 percent reported that the treatment either did not work at all or only lasted for less than six weeks.

Sensitivity treatments received at a dentist's office provided long-term relief for 38 percent of patients.

“This condition occurs most often in women younger than 65 years and is associated commonly with gingival (gum) recession and the use of at-home tooth whitening,” the authors concluded.

This study was published in March in The Journal of the American Dental Association.

The National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research provided support for this project. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 6, 2013
Last Updated:
March 8, 2013