According to the Academy of General Dentistry, at least 40 million adults suffer from sensitive teeth in the United States. The problem is common and it is treatable—just know that you are not alone. The most common complaint among dental patients is a sudden, sharp blast of pain when teeth are exposed to cold or hot foods, or even cold air. 

If you’re experiencing tooth pain, whether sharp and throbbing or dull and achy, it can be difficult to bite and chew, concentrate, get through the day, or even sleep at night, despite your taking over-the-counter remedies.

The source of tooth pain may be dental decay, abrasion of the outer tooth structure,  a crack in the tooth, or a lost filling. Any of these conditions may cause the nerve of the tooth to become inflamed or infected. Unfortunately,  the nerve tissue in our teeth has limited repairability or the ability to fight bacteria, and once inflamed or contaminated, can rarely return to a state of health.   Healthy tooth nerve tissue is neither inflamed nor infected. In these situations, the nerve tissue, and not the tooth itself, may need to be removed ( root canal treatment).

Causes of Sensitivity  

The pain or sensitivity you feel can be attributed to a number of oral health issues.

Potential Causes: 

Enamel Erosion

One of the most common causes of tooth temperature sensitivity is enamel erosion. Teeth are protected by enamel, which is their first defense against hot, cold, sticky, and abrasive items. When this enamel wears down, however,  it can allow bacteria to invade the tooth and cause tooth decay, exposing the sensitive nerves within the pulp chamber ( center )  of the tooth.  Enamel can become weaker with age, an acidic or sugary diet, and a history of acid reflux disease. It’s important to protect your enamel because once it’s gone, it does not regenerate.


Fissures in your teeth can also expose the same tender nerves to bacterial invasion, which will cause inflammation and increased sensitivity. In fact, sensitivity to hot and cold foods is often a warning sign that a cavity (decay) is forming. Over time your old fillings also can become loose, or even fall out,  producing near or actual exposure of the inner nerve, which is normally insulated from the rest of the mouth.

Receding Gums

Beneath the outer covering of enamel, our teeth are composed of a material called dentin. This organic material is more porous than enamel and has direct communication with the inner nerve tissue beneath it. Gum recession can cause exposure of the dentin,  otherwise covered by enamel, resulting in your increased sensitivity to otherwise normal degrees of temperature.

Contact Your Philadelphia Endodontist 

If you are experiencing tooth pain or sensitivity, it’s important to see your dentist as soon as possible. The sooner they can figure out the “root” cause, the more likely they will be able to save your natural tooth.  

Dr. Rhome is an Endodontic Specialist, specifically trained to treat conditions affecting the nerve of your tooth.  If you have any questions about tooth sensitivity, or if you’re experiencing tooth pain, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 215-735-7113. We look forward to helping you.