Sensitive Teeth and Children

little boy with popsicleThe summer months offer lots of cool treats for kids (and adults!) to snack on – ice cream, popsicles, and other frozen goodies often make the list of our favorite summer treats. Cold temperatures, however, can be quite harsh on teeth, causing uncomfortable sensitivity that makes it hard to enjoy these treats. Knowing what makes your child’s teeth hurt and why they might be experiencing sensitivity can help you appropriately address the issue.

Along with being sensitive to cold treats, teeth can also be sensitive to hot foods and beverages. The pain caused by hot and cold sensitivity could be fleeting, or it could be a lingering pain caused by an underlying cause. Brief discomfort is usually not a cause for concern. New teeth, whether they are primary or permanent, are often sensitive when they first come in. The sensitivity typically subsides once the teeth have had time to adapt to the environment. However, if your child continues to have pain each time he or she bites into something hot or cold, it could mean one of the following:


Also known as dental caries, cavities are small holes in the tooth’s surface that are caused by decay. Sometimes cavities go unnoticed, but other times they can be quite uncomfortable, especially when exposed to extreme temperatures or the pressure of chewing. Ask your child if their discomfort occurs in one area. If so, it is highly likely that a cavity is the source of their sensitive teeth.

A Broken Tooth

A chipped or broken tooth can expose the nerves in the inside of the tooth, which can be quite painful and cause a lot of sensitivity. If your child grinds or clenches their teeth, or has a misaligned bite, tiny fractures can occur. While this is a less obvious break in the tooth, fractures can also cause sensitivity.


Some fillings can cause sensitivity to hot and cold, especially silver amalgam fillings which contain metals that have a high thermal conductivity.

Enamel Damage

Damage to the tooth’s enamel, or surfaces, can cause the tooth to be sensitive. This damage can be caused by improper brushing or foods and drinks that are highly acidic. Help your child reduce their risk of damaging the enamel of their teeth by teaching them proper brushing techniques at a young age, as well as reducing the amount of acidic foods and beverages they consume.

Other causes of sensitive teeth include sinus issues, allergy issues, and braces. If your child is experiencing continued tooth sensitivity, ask your dentist about possible causes and remedies at your child’s next appointment. Special toothpastes can be purchased to help reduce sensitivity, as well as toothbrushes with softer bristles that are less harsh on tooth enamel. If you believe the cause might be more serious, such as a cavity, a broken tooth or an issue with a filling, schedule an appointment for your child to see the dentist as soon as possible.

About the Author

I am a family dentist who treats children as well as adults. Making smiles people love, extreme makeovers and complex dental reconstruction is our niche including implants, TMJ, orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry. As a participant in the blog, I will be offering dental perspectives on pediatric safety and health care options on a regular basis. I can be reached at Blessings to all! Dr Williams is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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