Why are my teeth sensitive to hot foods and drinks?

Teeth can be sensitive for many reasons. Watch as Dr. Maria Lopez Howell explains why teeth get sensitive and how to care for them.

Tooth sensitivity can be caused by sensitivity in the dentin, pulp, or both. Both dentin and pulp sensitivity usually involve reactions to temperature or pressure, and sensitivity to cold drinks or foods is the most common symptom. Less often, the teeth are sensitive to hot temperatures. If a single tooth becomes sensitive to heat, the tooth's nerve may be dying. In this case, root canal treatment may be necessary. See your dentist if any of your teeth become unusually sensitive to cold or heat.
Jonathan B. Levine, DMD
Heat sensitivity is an immediate pain response when eating anything hot.
  • CAUSES: Sensitivity to hot temperatures is often coupled with sensitivity to cold temperatures.  They are usually caused by the same things: significant decay, root exposure, gum inflammation and or reversible pulpitis.
  • WORRY LEVEL: Significant. If you're sensitive to heat, the nerve has most probably become irreversibly inflamed, and that's irreversible pulpitis. It can't be fixed, and it's on its way to dying.
  • TREATMENT: You have two choices: a root canal or tooth extraction. If caught in time, this problem can be remedied by a root canal.  However, if you wait too long, and inflammation swells in the bone, the condition could end up being much more painful and warrant tooth extraction. If you experience significant sensitivity to heat in one or more of your teeth, see your dentist immediately.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.