1 in 8 Adults May Have Sensitive Teeth
"It's hard to generalize, but probably for people that are visiting the general dentist, one in eight have sensitive teeth that is bothering them," Cunha-Cruz said.
However, study participants were predominantly white, nearly 82 percent, so it remains possible that teeth sensitivity could be more or less common in other racial groups, she added.
Another dental expert talked about vulnerability to the condition.
"Teeth sensitivity is universal, but some people and cultures could be more at risk depending on their diet, if it is very acidic, and if they drink a lot of wine or alcohol," said Dr. Richard Trushkowsky, associate director of International Aesthetic Dentistry at New York University. He was not involved with the study.
The researchers found that adults between 18 and 44 were 3.5 times more likely than older adults to have sensitive teeth, possibly because the material inside the tooth called dentin gets thicker over time, providing more insulation, said Marilynn Rothen, a study co-author and lead regional coordinator for the network of dental practices in the study, called Northwest Practice-based Research Collaborative in Evidence-based Dentistry.
Women were 1.8 times more likely than men to have the condition, the study also found. However, it is not clear if women are more likely to have sensitive teeth or if they are just more willing to report pain, Cunha-Cruz said.
Additional risk factors for sensitive teeth in the study were having receding gums, which can expose the tubes in the inside of the tooth like loss of enamel can, and performing at-home tooth whitening.
"You are making teeth whiter using chemicals that change the physical structure of the tooth and can probably open the [tubes]," Rothen said.
Cunha-Cruz noted that "the important thing is to be aware that this might happen if you whiten your teeth." But, she added, "if you stop the treatment, it will usually go away."
Contrary to the view held by many dentists, the study did not find that people who were aggressive tooth brushers were more likely to experience sensitive teeth, Cunha-Cruz said.