Tooth sensitivity can stop you from enjoying cold drinks and foods like ice cream. While you can avoid these to prevent tooth sensitivity, it won’t solve the problem long-term. 

Teeth can become sensitive to cold for various reasons, such as tooth decay, a cracked tooth, worn tooth enamel, or gum disease

If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, visit your dentist for a check-up to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.


What Is Tooth Sensitivity?

When you eat or drink something cold, tooth sensitivity can be mild or severe. You may experience minor discomfort or sharp, shooting pain in your teeth and gums.

When the enamel (the outer protective layer of the tooth) wears down or erodes, hot and cold foods can trigger tooth sensitivity. Enamel loss results in exposure of the sensitive layer of dentin within the tooth. 

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Several causes of enamel loss can contribute to tooth sensitivity:

  • Cavities
  • Tooth decay
  • Tooth injuries such as chips
  • Teeth grinding
  • Gum disease
  • Whitening toothpaste and alcohol-based mouthwashes
  • Dental work, like crowns and fillings
  • Acidic foods
  • Tooth infection
  • Forceful brushing
  • Smoking and tobacco products
  • Poor oral hygiene

An illustration of how tooth cavities occur and cause tooth decay.

Tooth Decay

Mild to sharp pain or pain that lingers after eating or drinking something cold can indicate a cavity. The underlying dentin becomes exposed when tooth enamel wears down because of acid or bacteria.

Dentin contains small tubes that lead to the nerves inside the tooth. When these tubes are exposed, cold temperatures can cause pain and sensitivity.

Cracked Tooth

A cracked tooth can allow cold temperatures to reach the nerves inside the tooth, causing sensitivity. If the crack extends into the pulp or soft tissue inside the tooth, you can have lingering or severe pain from cold foods and drinks. 

Worn Tooth Enamel

Enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body and forms the protective coating on your teeth. However, it can erode from acidic foods and drinks, among other causes. 

You can experience sensitivity to enamel erosion, and high sensitivity to cold can indicate significant enamel erosion. Once the enamel is gone, it won’t grow back, but you can prevent it from worsening. 

Gum Disease

Tooth sensitivity to cold can occur when gums start to recede and expose tooth roots. These roots don’t have a protective coating of enamel and can be more sensitive to cold temperatures.

Treating Tooth Sensitivity

Some home remedies can help temporarily reduce symptoms or alleviate pain. Visit your dentist for more effective and long-lasting relief of tooth sensitivity. 

Here are several ways to treat tooth sensitivity, depending on the underlying cause:

Desensitizing Toothpaste

Desensitizing toothpaste is specifically for sensitive teeth and can help to reduce pain and discomfort caused by exposed nerves. They contain compounds like fluoride, potassium nitrate, or strontium chloride that can relieve the symptoms of dentin sensitivity. Your dentist can help you find a brand that will work for your teeth. 

Don’t Brush Too Hard

Brushing your teeth too aggressively or using a toothbrush with hard bristles can wear away the enamel, leading to sensitivity. Instead, use a soft-bristled brush and a gentle technique

Avoid Acidic Foods & Drinks

Consuming acidic or sugary food and drinks can erode the enamel, making teeth more sensitive to cold temperatures. These can include candy, soda, citrus fruits, and high-sugar carbs. 

Take a Break From Whitening

Some teeth whitening products can cause temporary sensitivity and pain. Speak to your dentist about your options for whitening treatments, how they affect your teeth, and how often you should do these. 

Unclench Your Teeth

Over time, teeth grinding can wear away your enamel. If you grind your teeth, you can ask your dentist to fit you for a mouth guard, which can help prevent further enamel erosion. 


Fluoride applied to the sensitive areas of the tooth can help reduce pain and sensitivity and strengthen the tooth enamel. Ask your dentist for a fluoride treatment in the office or if there are at-home applications available. 

Dental Filling or Crowns

If tooth sensitivity results from tooth decay or a cracked tooth, a filling or crown can seal the tooth and protect it from further damage and sensitivity. 

Root Canal

If pain and sensitivity continue even after you stop cold foods and drinks, the tooth nerves or blood vessels could be infected or damaged. A root canal procedure may be necessary to remove the infected tissue and preserve the tooth. 

Protect Your Teeth & Gums

You don’t have to live with the symptoms of tooth sensitivity, such as pain and discomfort with cold foods and drinks. Treating and preventing them is possible when you know the underlying causes. 

With good oral hygiene habits, small lifestyle changes, and regular dental exams and cleanings, you can protect your enamel for longer. If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, book an appointment with One Family Dental to explore your options for treatment.