Usually a dentist would ask you if you're sensible to cold, hot, sweet or acid foods or drinks. The dentist may even expose the suspect tooth to compresed air, but what cues do this information give? for example: does sensibility to sweet mean a deeper cavity than to cold ? does any of them mean infection ?

Which is worst or do they all mean the same ?

Edit: For any sensibility to happen the emanel must let the substance pass throught the dentin. What I belive is that: hot or cold change the temperature of dentin which in turn change the presure around the nerve, but doesn't necesarily need to touch it directly, acid and sweet (that became acid thanks to bacteria) get to the nerve by the pores of dentin, while air needs a direct road to the nerve, thus making it the worst sign.

1 Answer 1


It's just a rough initial check.

Sensitive teeth are indicative of exposed dentin, but not necessarily tooth decay.

Anatomical diagram of a tooth

Teeth have layers to them:

  • The top layer (enamel) is composed almost entirely of hard minerals. It is impermeable, and totally insensitive to physical stimuli.

  • However, the next layer (dentin) is a little softer, and has many thin channels that connect inward to the center of the tooth. This allows various things like temperature, airflow, or some foods to stimulate nerves in the pulp of the tooth.

  • The centre of the tooth (pulp) connects to the circulatory and nervous systems through the jaw. Stimulation of these nerves is felt as pain or discomfort.

Dentin may be exposed by tooth decay, but also through erosion from other origins (such as bruxism), developmental defects, or due to receding gums exposing thinner-enamelised parts of the tooth nearer the roots, among others.

If any stimulus is painful, then there's definitely a problem. However, any particular stimulus being more painful than another says nothing about what the problem is, because tooth pain operates by such a very simple mechanism. Such a check must be followed up by a more detailed examination to determine the problem.

  • Anko, how to restore or reinforce damaged enamel from bruxism?
    – Boris_yo
    Oct 24, 2016 at 15:54
  • @Boris_yo I think you should ask that as a separate question.
    – user7054
    Oct 24, 2016 at 16:58

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