The responses of intradental sensory nerves to hyperosmotic solutions of sucrose (4M) and calcium chloride (6M) applied in dentinal cavities were studied in anesthetized cats. Nerve impulse activity was recorded from canine teeth after application of the test solutions in shallow and deep cavities. In shallow cavities (thickness of remaining dentin, about 500 micron) sucrose and calcium chloride caused an immediate and transient excitation of the nerves in 3 out of 15 teeth and in 8 of 12 teeth, respectively. Treatment of such cavities with lactic acid (1M) increased the frequency of nerve responses to 100%. When applied in deep cavities (thickness of remaining dentin, 0-50 micron), sucrose induced a burst of impulses followed by continuous nerve activity, whereas calcium chloride decreased the nerve excitability. Our results support the hypothesis that solutions exerting an effective osmotic pressure excite the intradental nerves by an indirect mechanism when applied on the dentin and that they exert a direct effect on nerves when in contact with the pulp. In addition, it is suggested that acids produced in carious dentin may facilitate the induction of pain by hyperosmotic stimuli.