Tooth Sensitivity in Kids: 4 Things Parents Should Know

Tooth Sensitivity in Kids: 4 Things Parents Should Know
Posted on 12/14/2021

December-BlogWhen your child hurts, so do you. Sensitive teeth can cause considerable discomfort, as you may know from your own personal experience with this issue. In addition to causing pain, tooth sensitivity can sometimes indicate an underlying dental problem that calls for prompt attention and professional care. As a concerned parent, you want to learn whatever you can about what might cause tooth sensitivity in kids, and how you can help relieve or even prevent this painful symptom. Take a moment to absorb the following four important points on the subject.

1. A Sensitive Tooth May Harbor Damage or Decay

If your child suddenly experiences pain in a particular tooth, you'd most likely suspect that a cavity has formed in that tooth, and with good reason. Tooth decay represents one of the most common of all childhood ailments, affecting 20 percent of all kids aged five to eleven and 13 percent of all teenagers.

The enamel that coats the visible surface of a tooth protects the sensitive inner tissues from infection and damage. However, the bacteria that build up on teeth produce acids that can eat holes known as cavities into the protective enamel. The deeper and wider the cavity, the more sensitivity the tooth may develop.

The acids that erode tooth enamel and increase tooth sensitivity don't always come from bacteria. A diet heavy in acidic foods and beverages can also damage tooth enamel and make teeth more sensitive. Try to steer your child away from overindulgence in acidic menu items like fruit juices, sodas, and candies.

Decay represents just one way a tooth's enamel can experience a critical breach. An impact injury on the playground can cause your child's tooth to break, chip, or crack, potentially exposing the sensitive nerve tissue within. Your pediatric dentist can confirm enamel decay or damage and treat it with a filling or crown.

2. Fillings Can Promote Tooth Sensitivity

Ideally, treatment for a cavity can eliminate the sensitivity caused by that cavity. Occasionally, however, a dental filling can perpetuate the sensitivity even as it resolves the threat of disease posed by the cavity itself. Your child's tooth may experience sensitivity to cold or cold temperatures for a few weeks after receiving a filling.

If your child continues to struggle with tooth sensitivity weeks after receiving a filling, schedule a return visit to the dentist. Bacteria may have infiltrated the nerve pulp of the tooth, in which case your child might need both root canal therapy to remove the infection and a permanent crown to protect and strengthen the treated tooth.

3. Incorrect Brushing Habits Can Make Young Teeth Sensitive

Hopefully, you've educated your child on the importance of brushing and flossing to keep teeth healthy and clean. However, even the healthy habit of regular tooth brushing can do harm as well as good. A child who uses incorrect brushing techniques may suffer from increased tooth sensitivity as a result.

Make sure your child brushes with a soft-bristled brush and a toothpaste low in abrasion. They should move the brush in small, gentle circles. Brushing too forcefully or with overly abrasive tools can cause the enamel to thin out, providing less insulation and protection for the sensitive nerve tissues within the tooth. Braces complicate dental hygiene for kids. Even a child who has always used proper brushing techniques in the past may get frustrated or impatient trying to extract food particles from braces. Your orthodontist or pediatric dentist can show your child who wears braces how to brush effectively — but not destructively.

4. Tooth Sensitivity Doesn't Always Mean a Tooth Problem

A child suffering from tooth sensitivity doesn't necessarily need treatment for a dental problem, although you should always schedule an evaluation just in case. Some sensitivity issues come and go based on natural changes in the teeth over time, or because of other health problems that can cause tooth pain.

The teeth of teenagers contain larger pulp chambers than those of adults. These chambers, filled with sensitive nerve tissue, lie close to the surfaces of the teeth as well. Your teen may complain of tooth sensitivity, with no signs of any actual dental disease or damage, until the nerve chamber eventually shrinks in size.

Children of any age may complain of a toothache when they've actually developed a sinus infection. Swelling and fluid buildup create pressure in the sinuses that sit just above the upper row of teeth, potentially compressing nerves that relay pain signals to those teeth. Treatment for the infection may relieve this pain.

Some kids who experience sensitivity to biting or chewing pressure may suffer from temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. A jaw injury, bite misalignment, or unconscious tooth grinding habit can strain the jaw joint, sending pain signals to the jaw, teeth, or face. Your pediatric dentist can diagnose and treat this condition.

If your child experiences discomfort from sensitive teeth, schedule an appointment at Dentistry for Children and Adolescents. Our skilled pediatric dentistry professionals can perform a detailed exam, treat any dental issues we may find, and provide tips on how to minimize tooth sensitivity.


Dentistry for Children & Adolescents

  • Edina Office - 7373 France Ave. S., Suite 402, Edina, MN 55435 Phone: 952-831-4400
  • Burnsville Office - 14050 Nicollet Ave., Suite 100, Burnsville, MN 55337 Phone: 952-435-4102
  • Eden Prairie Office - 6385 Old Shady Oak Road, Suite 150, Eden Prairie , MN 55344 Phone: 952-932-0920

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