Thirteen percent of Americans have over-sensitive teeth, and if you’re one of that number, you know how much this sensitivity can affect your life. In the midst of winter chill, your teeth can take an additional hit from cold-induced sensitivity. What causes this sensitivity? What can you do to prevent it? And when should you go see your dentist?
What Causes Cold Weather Sensitivity
Having winter-sensitive teeth can be caused by a few different factors, some more serious than others. Let’s look at three.
Contractions of the tooth structure
Contractions in the structure of your teeth is totally normal. “When teeth are exposed to sudden changes in temperature the dentin (tissue that is calcified and consists of tiny tubules or tubes and is the second layer of the tooth, normally covered by enamel) expands and contracts faster than the enamel, causing stress which can result in cracks forming.” These cracks don’t affect the structure of your teeth, but they may cause discomfort.
“Tooth pain is a side effect of sinusitis due to the pressure on nasal cavities, which are very close to the mouth. . . . The pressure from mucus blockage in this sinus can disturb the nerves that go through the roots of the molar, causing a toothache.” So if you have allergies or an illness and it hurts to chew, it might be a sinus problem, not a dental health problem.
Your enamel may wear away for several reasons, including your diet, acid reflux, or medications. If your enamel has worn away, “the cold air of winter could be affecting the nerves of a tooth’s roots.” This happens because the tiny tubes in the dentin are attached to nerves, which respond by causing you pain.
DIY Treatments and Preventions
To prevent winter sensitivity, take care of you oral health so that your enamel doesn’t wear away and expose your dentin. This includes all the basics: brushing twice a day, flossing, using mouthwash with fluoride, and keeping up on your twice-yearly dentist checkups.
Other things to do to prevent winter sensitivity:
- Don’t brush too vigorously. “You may think that you need to bear down hard to remove surface stains, but brushing with too much force can start to wear down your enamel.”
- Beware of clenching and grinding. Ask your dentist if it looks like you grind your teeth in your sleep.Clenching and grinding can wear down your enamel; consider getting a mouthguard.
- Avoid overindulging acidic beverages. “Sodas, coffee, tea, and other drinks with a high concentration of acid, such as juices, can erode your teeth and expose the dentin layer.”
When to See a Dentist
Taking DIY preventative measures is always a good thing, but sometimes, you need the help of a professional. As a rule of thumb, don’t let yourself have continual tooth pain for longer than three days. If this happens or you notice gum recession, come in and see us! Whether it’s the cold weather or something more serious giving you grief, we can help.
Cold-weather dental sensitivity can seriously affect your life, but it doesn’t have to for long. By taking care of your teeth, avoid certain behaviors and beverages, and seeing your dentist, you can keep your teeth happy all winter long.