On almost a daily basis, patients are seen at our practice with the problem of “teeth are sensitive to hot & cold.”  Let me first say that anything that exposes the inner layers (i.e.- dentin) of a tooth to the environment inside the mouth may result in sensitivity.  Situations that expose dentin include decay, fractures, faulty restorations, or just exposed root structures.  In a well-maintained mouth nine times out of ten the cause is merely recession of the gums resulting in exposed root.

You will need to understand what causes sensitivity in order to understand how to treat it.  In the center of your tooth dentin there is a chamber containing the nerve:

  • The nerve, in turn, has numerous tubules extending from it to the surface of the root.
  • When these tubules are open, temperature variations cause fluid to move in and out of the nerve.
  • This movement of fluids will set off the nerve.
  • Because the nerve in a tooth contains only pain receptors, any trigger to the nerve will be felt as pain. PERIOD!

Treatment for sensitivity of the root is aimed at sealing off the tubules on the root surface.  This “spackling” of the tubules is usually accomplished with sensitivity toothpastes (both over-the-counter and prescription strength) and with desensitizing agents done at the dental office.  When the openings are sealed, the sensitivity goes away.

I hope this posting was helpful!


Dr. Maddox