Temperature Sensitive Teeth


Causes of temperature sensitive teeth

Teeth that give pain when exposed to heat or cold are a common dental ailment. Ordinary wear and tear, exposed dentin near the gum line caused by improper brushing or gingivitis, chipped or cracked teeth, tooth-whitening products, acidic foods, and occasionally dental work are all possible causes of temperature-sensitive teeth.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Tooth

The usual reason for temperature sensitive teeth is that the dentin, the part of the tooth that allows heat or cold to most directly reach the sensitive internal nerves of the tooth, has become exposed. Such exposure usually is a consequence of gum erosion or thinning or weakening of the tooth’s enamel.

When the dentin is exposed, tiny tubules that lead to the tooth’s pulp (nerves and vessels) are exposed. If heat, cold, or acidity travels along these tubules to reach the tooth’s pulp, a sudden sharp pain can result.

dental tubules
Dental tubules

A secondary cause of temperature sensitive teeth is cracking in the tooth’s enamel. Such cracking can result from trauma or the regular stresses and strains on a tooth through fluctuations in temperature.

Managing tooth sensitivity

Choice of toothpaste

Tooth sensitivity is common enough that some brands of toothpaste are manufactured to reduce tooth sensitivity. The benefits of such toothpaste are gradually realized, and it might take a month or more of regular brushing with the toothpaste before any benefits are apparent.

On the other hand, some types of toothpaste will actually worsen tooth sensitivity. In particular, toothpaste for whitening teeth, and tartar-control toothpaste containing sodium pyrophosphate can exacerbate tooth sensitivity.


A worn toothbrush or one that is too hard can also increase tooth sensitivity to temperature as can brushing too vigorously because these things can work to expose dentin.

Worn toothbrush
Worn toothbrush

Tooth cleaning

Regular cleaning, brushing, and flossing are important to oral hygiene generally and can reduce tooth sensitivity.

Food choices

Acidic foods, while not a cause of tooth sensitivity, can trigger discomfort when teeth are sensitive. Foods and drinks such as those with strong citric acid (oranges and lemons are examples) should be avoided when they cause pain.

When to see your dentist

If tooth sensitivity causes more than occasional discomfort it is a good idea to check with your dentist. The effects of temperature sensitivity can also be confused with, or mask, other problems such as a dental abscess or cavity, so it is important to know what you are dealing with.


In-office desensitizing treatment, or a tooth coating that will reduce sensitivity, are options to discuss with your dentist. Dentists can offer a variety of treatments including white fillings (bonding) to cover tooth surfaces, fluoride varnishes, and dentin sealers. Numerous options exist.

sencitive teeth
A dentist may also recommend specific tooth brushing techniques and brushes, toothpaste, topical agents, and so forth. Contact the Sherway Gardens Dental Centre to have assessment and treatment for sensitive teeth.

Visit our office for a consultation
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