So many of us cherish winter weather, whether it be an excuse to wear our favorite coat, the copious amounts of hot cocoa, or enjoying cozy evenings spent under a warm blanket with the most treasured Christmas movie on. Yet, others dread the close of the warmer seasons and find themselves scratching their heads at the concept of celebrating the joy of winter.
Both can agree on one aspect of winter — it is made considerably worse by tooth pain brought on by cold weather. Studies estimate that as many as 50% of dental patients suffer from sensitive teeth, a condition exacerbated by winter weather.
The good news is that many well-trodden treatment options for tooth pain in winter are available. Here is everything you need to know about temperature-sensitive teeth, their causes, and how you can get back to making the most out of cold weather pain-free!
Can Cold Weather Make My Teeth Hurt?
Our teeth are protected by a hard, white coating layer known as tooth enamel. The enamel’s hard, protective structure shelters a layer of otherwise vulnerable microscopic tubes beneath, known as dentin.
Dentin is a softer, more sensitive part of the tooth than enamel. It is the final layer of protection that covers the pulp cavity, which contains the blood vessels and nerve fibers vital for the healthy functioning of the entire tooth structure.
The likelihood of dentin being exposed increases as tooth enamel wears off. Hence, bouts of cold weather can cause tooth pain since cold air reaches the sensitive nerves of the teeth.
Enamel naturally degrades with age, but if you practice good oral hygiene, you can slow its recession, while bad oral health habits can accelerate the degradation process. A damaged tooth is more likely to be to blame when you experience tooth sensitivity than a healthy one.
Below are the primary ways cold weather pain can affect your teeth.
Extreme Temperature Swings
Sudden temperature variations can be the impetus for tooth pain. During extreme temperature swings, warmer temperatures can make teeth expand, while cooler temperatures can make teeth contract.
The effect of temperature variations on teeth is well-documented in academic literature. Some scholars affirm that cold temperatures cause more severe pain and pain with a faster onset than warm temperatures.
Going rapidly from warm to cold weather is one of many ways that temperature swings can cause pain. Consuming food and drinks that vary significantly in temperature in a short time can also lead to extreme temperature swings for your teeth and cause pain. For example, following a scalding cup of coffee with ice cream can make your teeth expand and contract. Doing so in quick succession is likely to lead to discomfort.
Thin Tooth Enamel
Enamel erosion can expose the vulnerable dentin beneath it. Exposed dentin is a leading cause of temperature-sensitive teeth. Intense cold weather can reach the tooth’s blood vessels and nerves without the shielding presence of enamel. These problems are exacerbated by a cracked or chipped tooth, whereby wind can penetrate the tooth deeper.
The link between receding gums and cold sensitivity is well-documented. Receding gums result from gum diseases such as periodontal disease, an infection of the gums that strips away the gum tissue covering root surfaces. As the gums recede, unprotected structures become increasingly sensitive to the adverse effects of winter weather, such as making one’s teeth hurt.
Periodontal disease is generally caused by inadequate brushing or other bad oral habits. These conditions can cause jaw pain by damaging the alveolar bone surrounding tooth sockets. See a dentist promptly if you notice pain and suspect it might be due to gum disease, such as periodontal disease.
An undetected tooth decay problem might be at the root of your sensitive teeth. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in your mouth that wear down your enamel. If left untreated, this condition can lead to cavities.
In some cases, undetected tooth decay causes the structures covering root surfaces to diminish to the point where cold sensitivity becomes severe. In cases of deep decay, seeing a dentist as soon as possible is essential for treating the damaged tooth.
Eating/Drinking Acidic Foods and Beverages
Acidic foods and drinks are more likely to damage and wear down your enamel. Coupled with bad oral health, eating these types of food can be the root of your tooth sensitivity.
How To Protect Your Sensitive Teeth During Winter
If you have seasonally-sensitive teeth, you don’t have to suffer throughout the winter. There are accessible and pragmatic steps you can take to mitigate the discomfort, such as ensuring that you practice good oral hygiene habits.
While prevention is an excellent approach to reducing tooth sensitivity, it is vital to see a dentist if the problem is acute, such as a cracked or chipped tooth or periodontal disease. If you struggle with sensitive teeth and jaw pain simultaneously, the underlying issue may be a gum problem affecting your alveolar bone or even severe tooth decay.
Breathe Less Through Your Mouth
Breathing through your nose is a great way to minimize sensitivity, as breathing out of your mouth can dry out your teeth and gum lining, increasing the likelihood of gum conditions and decay.
Sensitive Teeth Require Sensitivity Toothpaste
Using sensitivity toothpaste protects your nerve endings from substances that can cause pain and discomfort. However, you should note that sensitivity toothpaste doesn’t address the core issue that makes your teeth hurt — it only alleviates symptoms.
Protect Your Tooth Enamel
The enamel that covers your teeth plays a crucial role in protecting the more sensitive tooth structures, such as dentin and the pulp cavity. Protecting the enamel by avoiding harmful foods can prevent the core conditions that hurt your teeth. Quality dental hygiene is one of the most effective ways to protect the enamel.
Improve Bad Oral Health Habits
Practicing appropriate dental hygiene can reduce the chances of developing sensitivity and pain in your teeth. Regularly brushing, flossing, and rinsing with a dentist-recommended mouthwash are all examples of proper dental hygiene. In addition, regularly visiting a dentist is critical for identifying and treating potential dental issues.
When Should I See a Dentist for My Tooth Sensitivity?
If you notice pain and cold-related sensitivity, you must see a dentist to identify the condition making your teeth hurt. A dental professional can address these issues in various ways, such as by applying fluoride, creating a mouth guard, or administering a root canal treatment.
If an infection of the pulp cavity is the underlying cause of sensitivity, root canal treatment is an appropriate course of action. A root canal procedure removes infected material from the pulp cavity and sterilizes the area, thereby eliminating pain and sensitivity. A root canal procedure is a great way to address these issues since it preserves the natural tooth structure.
Applying fluoride is a preventative measure, as it protects the enamel of teeth, mitigates decay, and improves overall dental health.
For those who suffer from bruxism (teeth grinding), a mouth guard is an appropriate course of action to minimize sensitivity and pain.
Start Your Orthodontic Journey at Loudoun Orthodontics!
Contact Loudoun Orthodontics for a free consultation if you think you are a candidate for orthodontic treatment! Whether you want to learn more about the benefits of braces or have questions about the treatment process, use our live chat or call (703) 858-0303. You can also send us a message through our contact us page to connect with our friendly staff today. Our dental practice, located at 19465 Deerfield Ave, Suite 304, Leesburg, VA 20176, proudly services not just Loudoun County but also the Greater Washington DC area. So, if you’re residing in Ashburn, Lansdowne, or Sterling, and are looking for exceptional dental care, don’t hesitate to visit our office! We also invite you to keep up with our blog to get answers to many of the frequently asked questions about maintaining sparkling oral health, as well as follow us on Facebook and Instagram to become a part of our smiling community!