Teeth Sensitive To Cold: What You Should Know

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It is common for teeth to be sensitive to cold. The good news is that sufferers have choices to help alleviate their sensitive teeth. Your dental professional can advise you what to do, but sometimes dental treatment is necessary.

Causes of Sensitive Teeth

According to the Australian Dental Association, tooth sensitivity, also known as dentine hypersensitivity, can be caused by a number of factors. Most dentine  hypersensitivity is related to exposed root surfaces of teeth. However, sensitivity could also result from a cavity, or a lost or loose filling. 

How Root Surfaces Become Exposed

Your teeth are covered by a layer of enamel. Enamel on your teeth is the hardest and most highly mineralized substance in your body. This enamel surface covers the part of the tooth above the gumline; however, the root, which doesn't have this hard protective enamel layer, can become exposed for various reasons, including gum recession. The root is covered by a thin and easily worn layer of cementum, and beneath this layer, is dentine. It is the microscopic dentinal tubules that transmit the temperatures of the foods that we eat straight to the nerve cells of the tooth. As a result of dentine exposure, you can have teeth sensitive to cold. 

Types of Treatment

The best treatment for dentine hypersensitivity will depend on the cause of your sensitivity, as well as other elements. Your dental professional will evaluate your condition and suggest treatment options that are right for you. Whether they're for use at home or in the dental chair, these treatments could include one or a combination of the following:

  • Special toothpastes
  • In-office treatments
  • Dietary changes
  • Bonded fillings to cover the exposed area
  • Gum grafting to cover the receding gum

Fluoride is a tool to alleviate sensitive teeth. Fluoride works by strengthening the enamel and dentine, thus reducing sensitivity. All of these treatments should be combined with a good home care regimen that includes proper toothbrushing with a soft-bristle toothbrush. Proper nutrition is important too, because a diet that frequently includes acidic foods and drinks can contribute to or aggravate sensitivity.

More involved treatment includes dental work that restores and protects the exposed root or lost tooth structure. Your dentist will recommend the best treatment, and it may include referrals to other dental specialists.

Teeth sensitive to cold and other stimuli are a very common problem. Fortunately, your sensitivity could be instantly alleviated. The first step is to schedule an appointment with your dental professional, who has the knowledge and the tools to assess and treat your individual needs. Diminishing or eliminating sensitive teeth will have a positive effect on your oral and overall health.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tooth sensitivity — also known as dentine hypersensitivity — affects the tooth via exposed root surfaces. This occurs when the enamel that protects the teeth wears away, or when gum recession occurs, exposing the underlying surface, the dentine, thus, reducing the protection the enamel and gums provide to the tooth and root.

Signs & Symptoms

If hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks, breathing in cold air, or touching the affected surface makes your teeth or a tooth sensitive, then you may have dentine hypersensitivity. Tooth sensitivity can come and go over time.


There are many causes of tooth sensitivity, including:

  • Worn tooth enamel from using a hard toothbrush or brushing too aggressively

  • Tooth erosion due to highly acidic foods and beverages

  • Tooth erosion due to bulimia or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD)

  • Gum recession that leaves your root surface exposed

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