Have you ever noticed your teeth hurting while eating or drinking something hot or cold? When tooth enamel wears down or gums start to recede, a layer of your teeth can be exposed that is highly sensitive to temperature changes. However, it’s not just foods and drinks that can cause sensitivity; cold weather can also cause the same painful sensation in your mouth.
If your teeth ache when the temperature drops outside, you’re not alone. Here’s a look why cold weather affects your teeth and what you can do for relief.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
For most people, the main cause of tooth sensitivity is the loss of a protective covering around a tooth’s inner dentin — the material that makes up the inside of each tooth. When teeth are healthy, the outer enamel layer works to protect the dentin. If the protective layer is eroded, however, hot and cold temperatures can penetrate the nerves of the tooth to cause sensitivity and pain.
There are a variety of factors that can contribute to enamel loss and tooth sensitivity. These include:
- Brushing too hard. Brushing your teeth too aggressively or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can wear down your enamel. It can also cause the gum tissue to pull away from teeth, exposing the root of a tooth and leading to sensitivity.
- Consuming too many acidic foods and drinks. Over time, eating or drinking highly acidic foods and drinks — such as citrus fruits, soda, and sports drinks — can damage your enamel and increase the likelihood of sensitivity. Enjoy these foods in moderation and remember to rinse with water or brush teeth afterward to prevent further damage.
- Grinding your teeth. Chronic grinding or clenching your teeth can erode the protective enamel. Talk to your dentist about a custom-made mouthguard designed to protect against further damage.
- Tooth decay and gum disease. Plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth can cause your gums to recede and eat away at your enamel. If left untreated, harmful bacteria can erode the outer protective layer of your teeth and eventually expose the dentin, leading to intense discomfort.
- Cracks in your teeth or restorations. A crack or fracture in your teeth, fillings, or crowns can spread down to your roots, causing sensitivity and pain.
Relieving Your Sensitive Teeth
Some people can relieve their tooth sensitivity by using a special desensitizing toothpaste. Your dentist may also prescribe a fluoride gel treatment that is used to strengthen existing enamel and reduce the sensations that aggravate the nerves of the tooth. Ultimately, the best way to treat sensitive teeth and avoid enamel erosion is prevention. Practice proper toothbrushing and flossing to promote healthy teeth and gums. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and limit acidic foods to help protect your enamel from damage.
Talk to Your Dentist About Tooth Sensitivity
It’s not uncommon to experience tooth sensitivity during the cold winter months. However, this doesn’t mean you should ignore tooth pain. Occasional sensitivity is normal, but if you are experiencing persistent or extremely painful sensitivity to cold, it is time to let your dentist take a look. Your dentist can get to the bottom of what’s causing your sensitivity and come up with a treatment plan that works for you.