Having cold sensitivity is one of the most common dental complaints heard by dental professionals. Usually, cold sensitivity is not caused by a severe dental problem, but it is still essential to have regular dental visits to discuss your symptoms with your dental professional.

What can cause cold sensitivity?

Gum recession/exposed roots of teeth- The most common cause of cold sensitivity is gum recession. When the gum moves back, it reveals the roots of your teeth and the softer, more porous layer called dentin. Dentin has many tiny, hollow tubules that contain fluid. When you have cold foods and drinks, the liquid in the tubules moves and signals the nerve of your tooth to feel pain.

Acid erosion- If you have lost some tooth enamel due to acid exposure, this can cause cold sensitivity. Acid erosion can be caused by GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), bulimia or a diet high in acidic foods and drinks.

Bruxism/grinding- Grinding can cause your teeth to appear flatter and shorter. You may also see the biting edges of your teeth chipping away under the stress of grinding. This can expose the inner dentin layer of your teeth and lead to tooth sensitivity.

Tooth whitening- Whitening products such as bleaching strips or even professional dental whitening can cause increased tooth sensitivity. This is usually short-term and using a sensitive toothpaste can help. Whitening toothpaste is more abrasive than regular kinds of toothpaste and are not the best choice for those with sensitive teeth.


Dental decay- A cavity can cause cold sensitivity. If you are experiencing hot and cold sensitivity or have pain when chewing this may indicate a more serious issue, and you should see your dentist.

Metal fillings- Many people, still have amalgam or silver fillings. The metal expands and contracts at a different rate than your tooth when you have hot or cold foods and drinks. This can lead to tiny cracks forming in your tooth that can cause sensitivity. If the metal filling is old and starting to break down, you may need to have it replaced with a white filling material.

Treatments for cold sensitivity:

Sensitive toothpaste- For many with cold sensitivity, the only treatment needed is consistent use of a sensitive toothpaste. These toothpastes can either physically block the dentin tubules, or desensitize the nerve of the tooth. If you have a particularly sensitive area, you can rub a small amount of the toothpaste directly on the spot and leave it on.

Dental varnish- In some cases, your dental professional may want to apply a protective varnish to the exposed root surfaces. This can help to block the dentin tubules and provide immediate relief of tooth sensitivity.

Reduce acidic foods and drinks- Drinks like lemon water, pop, tea, coffee, juice and wine are acidic and can trigger tooth sensitivity. Try to drink mainly water and limit acidic drinks to mealtimes. Make sure to rinse your mouth with water after having any acidic foods or beverages. If you experience chronic heartburn, throat irritation or acid regurgitation you should visit your doctor to see if you could have GERD.

Excellent oral hygiene- Leaving dental plaque sitting on your teeth puts you at risk of developing dental issues. The bacteria in the plaque produce acids that can lead to tooth sensitivity and decay. The build-up of bacteria can also lead to gum disease and gum recession. Make sure to brush at least twice a day and clean between your teeth daily.

Gingival grafting- This is a treatment for gum recession. Gum recession can be caused by some factors including gum disease, orthodontics, aggressive brushing and excessive clenching and grinding. Gingival grafting can cover up the exposed roots and improve the long-term health of the affected teeth.

While having cold sensitivity isn’t usually a cause for alarm, you should have a dental check-up if it has been over a year since your last one. If you have any questions about your sensitive teeth or want to book a check-up, call us today!