Why is My Tooth Sensitive to Cold or Hot?

Posted on:

August 25, 2021

If your tooth is sensitive to cold and heat, then ordinary things seem like a struggle. If you have a tooth sensitive to hot and cold, then everyday tasks like brushing your teeth with cold water become tedious. If you have a tooth sensitive to heat, then having a cup of hot coffee is a struggle or if you have tooth sensitivity to cold, then the mere thought of having ice cream is upsetting! Having a sensitive tooth or a tooth sensitive to hot and cold food and beverages is not an ordinary struggle as neither cold nor hot temperatures are your friends.

Why is My Tooth Sensitive to Cold or Hot?

What Is A Sensitive Tooth?  

If you suffer from persistent tooth sensitivity, you must be wondering, “Why are my teeth sensitive to cold and hot temperatures?” Let’s get to know why you have a sensitive tooth, why your tooth is sensitive to hot food and beverages, why you have tooth sensitivity to cold drinks and food, and what exactly sensitive teeth mean in this section. 

The outermost layer present on teeth is called enamel. This enamel protects your teeth and crowns of your teeth (the part above the gum line.) In healthy teeth, the enamel is the densest substance in your body. 

However, the enamel is not the only substance protecting your teeth. The cementum layer is also present on the root of the teeth to protect them. The root of a tooth can be found below the gum line. The cementum, the outer layer of the root, protects the roots of the teeth. However, this cementum is softer (or less dense) than enamel. So, when the cementum layer is exposed due to gingival/gum recession, extreme cold and hot temperatures can irritate the nerve and trigger pain which makes the tooth sensitive to hot and cold temperatures and is called a sensitive tooth.

John Dudley
John Dudley
January 20, 2022
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I could not be any more fortunate and grateful for Dr. George Orfaly accepting me recently as a new patient! I switched over from my previous provider in a nearby community after receiving subpar care and at risk of losing two teeth. He and the entire team at Fisher & Orfaly Dental have made my transition a smooth and comfortable one, setting me at ease and swiftly on the path to a promising prognosis! I also know that both Dr. Orfaly and Dr. Fisher care a great deal about the community beyond the walls of their practice, too, both quite supportive of local nonprofit and charitable efforts. This all makes me feel wonderful about being a patient, one of the best decisions I've ever made. You and your family should consider switching to Fisher & Orfaly!

William Stewart
William Stewart
January 20, 2022
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Needed a new dentist in Salem, picked Dr. Orfaly by location. I met him before agreeing to my first appointment, and so far, have been very happy. I'm a curious sob, and credit Dr Orfaly for being patient with my atmospheric river of questions. He knows how to relate to patients, and seems to be on top of his game. Highly recommend.

Carol Gray
Carol Gray
October 21, 2020
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Everything about my dental experience is professional and considerate.

Peter Gaudreault
Peter Gaudreault
August 5, 2020
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Made you feel comfortable, right from the start. Definitely five stars found my new dentist!

Ed Schutte
Ed Schutte
January 10, 2020
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I have been a patient of Fisher & Orfaly for many years now. But recently, my whole family moved to the practice. Their approach has always been kind, caring and practical.

John Dudley
John Dudley
January 20, 2022
Star-ratingStar-ratingStar-ratingStar-ratingStar-rating

I could not be any more fortunate and grateful for Dr. George Orfaly accepting me recently as a new patient! I switched over from my previous provider in a nearby community after receiving subpar care and at risk of losing two teeth. He and the entire team at Fisher & Orfaly Dental have made my transition a smooth and comfortable one, setting me at ease and swiftly on the path to a promising prognosis! I also know that both Dr. Orfaly and Dr. Fisher care a great deal about the community beyond the walls of their practice, too, both quite supportive of local nonprofit and charitable efforts. This all makes me feel wonderful about being a patient, one of the best decisions I've ever made. You and your family should consider switching to Fisher & Orfaly!

William Stewart
William Stewart
January 20, 2022
Star-ratingStar-ratingStar-ratingStar-ratingStar-rating

Needed a new dentist in Salem, picked Dr. Orfaly by location. I met him before agreeing to my first appointment, and so far, have been very happy. I'm a curious sob, and credit Dr Orfaly for being patient with my atmospheric river of questions. He knows how to relate to patients, and seems to be on top of his game. Highly recommend.

Carol Gray
Carol Gray
October 21, 2020
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Everything about my dental experience is professional and considerate.

Peter Gaudreault
Peter Gaudreault
August 5, 2020
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Made you feel comfortable, right from the start. Definitely five stars found my new dentist!

Ed Schutte
Ed Schutte
January 10, 2020
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I have been a patient of Fisher & Orfaly for many years now. But recently, my whole family moved to the practice. Their approach has always been kind, caring and practical.

Why Are My Tooth Sensitive To Cold And Hot Temperatures?

If you feel like you have tooth sensitivity to cold or a tooth sensitive to heat, then you can check or identify the causes of tooth sensitivity to cold and heat in this section.

Causes Of Tooth Sensitivity To Cold And Heat-

  • Tooth decay: Issues like tooth decay can be the reason for your tooth being sensitive to heat or cold, as it leaves a protective layer as well as dentin (tissue underneath the enamel) exposed. When teeth are left unprotected, extreme temperatures can trigger nerve pain, making teeth sensitive to hot and cold temperatures.
  • Exposed Root Surface: Gum recession, which is normal with increasing age, can affect cementum (layer protecting roots of teeth) and leave the roots of the teeth unprotected and exposed, making tooth sensitive to heat, causing tooth sensitivity to cold, and triggering pain.
  • Broken Down Fillings: Sensitive tooth is common after going through treatments like fillings, bleaching, crowns, etc. If you feel you have a sensitive tooth after crown or your tooth is sensitive after filling, then that is also normal. This sensitivity is common, feels like sudden shocks of extreme cold or heat in the mouth, and will subside after a few days. You just need to be observant and careful of triggers during such days to minimize sensitive teeth. However, if your tooth gets exposed in cases of broken dental fillings or fractured fillings, then it is advisable to get immediate professional help to prevent further damage.
  • Gum Disease: Along with gum recession, a buildup of plaque or tartar can affect the gums and lead to gum diseases, leaving protective layers of your teeth broken and roots of teeth exposed, unprotected. This is a cause of teeth sensitivity to cold and hot. In such cases, if not treated, a sensitive tooth may lead to tooth decay and other such serious problems.
  • Worn Tooth Enamel: Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin. The dentin is the inner tooth layer which is less dense than enamel and cementum. The dentinal layer contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes). When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum, these tubules allow heat and cold to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. The result can be hypersensitivity or extreme tooth sensitivity to cold and heat.
  • Fractured Tooth Structure: If there is a fracture line within the tooth, the nerve can be irritated when you bite down on the area that has the fracture. This is due to the movement of the fractured tooth structure. If a tooth has a portion missing due to it fracturing off, the nerve is not as protected and can be aggravated. This can also be a cause for tooth sensitivity to hot and cold items.
  • Brushing Too Hard: If you are brushing your teeth with force, using too much mouthwash too many times to achieve pearly teeth, a brighter smile, then be careful because these things may affect the enamel and other protective layerings of the teeth, leaving them exposed which may lead to tooth sensitivity to hot and cold items or worse, some serious damage.
  • Grinding Your Teeth: Grinding teeth, clenching your teeth may wear down the enamel of your teeth over time which will expose and affect other protective layers like dentin, causing nerve pain and sensitive tooth. It is advisable to wear mouth guards and address deeper issues leading to grinding and clenching teeth to protect your teeth from tooth sensitivity and other issues accompanying it.

Hopefully, you may now have a better understanding of why your teeth are sensitive to cold and heat.

Triggers For Sensitive Tooth:

If you have a sensitive tooth, then the following things may irritate the roots, nerves of the teeth and trigger pain. The triggers for tooth sensitivity to cold, signs that you have a tooth sensitive to heat are as follows:

  • Hot and cold foods, beverages
  • Sweets, sugary food and beverages
  • Eating sour food
  • Acidic foods and beverages
  • Cold air
  • Brushing teeth
  • Using mouthwash

Sensitive Teeth Symptoms:

In this section, let’s take a look at the sensitive teeth symptoms to check whether you have tooth sensitivity to cold or have a tooth sensitive to heat or hot temperature. The following are the sensitive teeth symptoms:

  • Bad breath
  • No taste or changes in taste
  • Redness, Pus
  • Receding, swelling of gums
  • Noises when opening or closing the mouth or inability to open the mouth
  • Jaw pain or muscle pain in the face
  • Sinus pain

How To Get Rid Of Sensitive Tooth?

A sensitive tooth can be diagnosed during regular checkups or dental cleanings. If you are experiencing severe symptoms and the pain is being triggered often, then the test for other potential problems/ causes like broken fillings, gum diseases, cavities will also be done. If you’re concerned with how to get rid of a sensitive tooth, then we’ll discuss a variety of treatment options in this section. Depending on the causes, type, symptoms, the right tooth sensitivity treatment will be suggested to you. The following are the tooth sensitivity treatments:

  • Desensitizing/ Sensitive Toothpaste: Desensitizing toothpaste or sensitive toothpaste contains compounds that help block the transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve. However, it is not an overnight treatment. If you’re using sensitive toothpaste with a doctor's recommendation as a treatment, then it will require consistent use of 3-4 weeks before you start noticing a reduction in the sensitivity. Also, you will be advised to use alcohol-free mouthwash as it is better suitable for sensitive tooth. 
  • Fluoride Gel: The application of fluoride gel or prescription-grade desensitizing agents is another easy and safe way to treat the sensitive tooth. The application of fluoride gel is a professional treatment and an in-office technique that strengthens tooth enamel, reduces the transmission of sensations, and protects the teeth. 
  • A Dental Crown: A crown is used when a large portion of the tooth is missing due to decay or fracture.  Also, a dental crown is placed on a tooth with an asymptomatic fracture line to immobilize the fractured segment.
  • Root Canal: If the tooth sensitivity to cold and heat is severe and persistent and is diagnosed to be irreversible, root canal therapy may be recommended to treat the problem.

Most of the time, poor oral hygiene is the reason why your teeth are sensitive to cold and heat. If plaque is not removed properly and consistently, it can lead to tooth decay and/or gum recession. It is important that you maintain good oral hygiene habits and visit your dentist regularly to prevent tooth sensitivity.

This blog was first posted on December 10, 2019, and updated on August 25, 2021.
Maura Murphy
Maura Murphy
January 24, 2022
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I was not a fan of going to the dentist! One might say afraid… but thanks to the amazing team at Fisher & Orfaly I am back on track with my 6 month cleanings. The team did an amazing job calming my fears and I can actually say I may even enjoy going to the dentist now! The team is professional, accommodating, and they do a fabulous job cleaning my teeth! I am so grateful that they have me back on track with great dental habits. They certainly have given me something to smile about.

Corbin Bettencourt
Corbin Bettencourt
January 24, 2022
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Who likes to go to the dentist? Fear no more. Dr. Orfaly and his staff provide an environment of ease and professionalism that relieve the jitters that so many feel during visits to the dentist. Whether a routine check up or more complex procedure, our experiences have been most positive.

Jacqueline Traynor
Jacqueline Traynor
May 19, 2021
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I am someone who has been terrified of the Dentist from a very young age, but after seeing Dr. Orfaly and his team over the past couple of months I have 100% gotten over my fears. I have never felt more comfortable and taken care of by the staff. Everyone is so nice and down to earth they make you feel welcome! Dr. Orfaly even came in on a day they were closed because I was having extreme tooth pain, and he totally fixed the problem, I will never forget that. I’m so happy I decided to go to Fischer & Orfaly, best decision I’ve ever made!

Ashley Spencer
Ashley Spencer
April 1, 2021
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Dr Orfaly is the best dentist around! I have alot of anxiety around going to the dentist & Dr Orfaly always makes sure to check in to see how I'm doing & is so nice. If a referral is needed to a specialist, he makes the call for you & gets you an appt quickly (mine was even the same day) I love how they book you with the same dental hygienist for all cleanings.. Adds another level of comfort... Shoutout to mine, Kathy!! 😊

Martina Pena-Martes
Martina Pena-Martes
February 7, 2020
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Before coming to Fisher & Orflay my daughter hated coming to the dentist, she now looks forward to her appointments fully knowing and understanding every procedure being done. They make her visits pleasant each and every time, providing excellent service with the help of their friendly and knowledgeable staff.

Sam Smullin
Sam Smullin
January 22, 2020
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After many years of neglecting my my teeth due to fear of the dentist my dental issues got bad enough that I had no choice but to adress them. I randomly selected Fisher & Orfaly and am very glad that I did. Dr Orfaly did a great job while making sure I was as comfortable as possible.After completing the initial, extensive repairs my mouth looks and feels great. In the 10 years since I first visited I had had no new major work needed. Even better, I can walk into the office without that sense of dread that is familiar to so many people.

Dr. George Orfaly
Dr. George Orfaly, D.M.D.

About the author

Dr. George Orfaly is a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry and has been practicing as a dentist in Salem, MA since 2005. He has consistently improved the lives of his patients by providing them relief, confidence, and healthy smiles. He believes that oral health is directly related to overall health and well-being. Dr. Orfaly has also been an active member of the American Dental Association, Massachusetts Dental Society, and North Shore District Dental Society.

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