Mechanical stress was applied to canine teeth in anaesthetized cats to excite intradental A-fibres and to produce digastric muscle EMG responses. Activity in the intradental sensory units was recorded by two electrodes, one inserted in a dentinal cavity, the other in contact with the gingival sulcus. A pneumatically driven piston was used to cause a mechanical stress (10-150 N) on the stabilized tooth crown for 30 s, with instantaneous onset and release. Application of a load of 30 N produced a momentary burst of impulses in 2 of 12 teeth; 8 out of 10 teeth responded when 150 N was used. Digastric EMG responses were obtained at and above 60 N. Removal of the coronal pulp or cooling of the tooth crown with ethyl chloride abolished this reflex, whereas percussion of the tooth still produced a digastric response. Our results suggest that load-induced deformation of teeth activates intradental sensory mechanisms and a reflex withdrawal reaction unrelated to periodontal stimulation.