Why does cold weather make my teeth hurt?

Posted on 11/01/2024

image of woman in tooth pain infront of a snowy background

If you have ever felt a sharp pain in your teeth when you breathe in cold air, then you may have sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity is a common dental problem. Everyday activities like eating ice cream, drinking tea, and even chatting at the bus stop on a frosty morning can feel uncomfortable if you have sensitive teeth.

But what causes tooth sensitivity and how can you prevent it?

Tooth sensitivity is a condition where the teeth become more sensitive to certain stimuli (notably temperature, but also the presence of sweet or sour flavour in foods and drinks). The pain can be sudden and intense, and it may shoot deep into the nerve endings of the teeth.

To understand why this happens, you’ll need to understand the basics of the structure of teeth. The outer layer of a tooth is called enamel, which is the hardest substance in the body. It protects the inner layer of the tooth, called dentin, which is softer and contains tiny tubules that connect to the nerve of the tooth.

When the enamel wears away or gets damaged, the dentin becomes exposed and the tubules become more open. This allows a stimulus (such as hot coffee or cold wind) to reach the nerve of the tooth more easily, causing pain.

There are many factors that might cause your teeth to become more sensitive:

  • Tooth decay, cavities, broken teeth, or worn fillings or crowns that leave the dentin exposed.
  • Gum recession or gum disease that causes the gums to pull away from the teeth and expose the roots directly.
  • Brushing too hard, using a hard toothbrush, or abrasive toothpaste that can erode the enamel or damage the gums.
  • Grinding or clenching the teeth, which can crack the enamel or cause the teeth to wear down.
  • Acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits, vinegar, wine, or soda, that can dissolve the enamel and make the teeth more vulnerable to sensitivity.
  • Frequent vomiting, acid reflux, or eating disorders such as bulimia that can expose the teeth to stomach acid which will erode enamel.
  • Certain teeth whitening treatments or products can temporarily make the teeth more sensitive.

How can you prevent and treat tooth sensitivity?

The good news is that tooth sensitivity can be prevented and treated with appropriate dental care and simple lifestyle changes. Here are a number of tips to help you reduce and manage your tooth sensitivity:

  • Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. Your dentist can identify and treat dental problems that may cause sensitivity, such as cavities, broken teeth, or gum disease.
  • Use a medium or soft bristled toothbrush and gentle strokes to brush your teeth twice a day. Avoid brushing too hard or too long, as this can damage the enamel and the gums. Choose a high fluoride toothpaste that can help remineralise the enamel and reduce sensitivity.
  • Floss your teeth once a day to remove plaque and food particles that can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Avoid or limit acidic foods and drinks that can erode the enamel and make the teeth more sensitive.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth after eating or drinking something acidic, as brushing too soon can damage the enamel further.
  • Wear a mouthguard at night if you grind or clench your teeth, as this can crack the enamel or cause the teeth to wear down. Your dentist can make a custom-fitted mouthguard for you that can protect your teeth and reduce the pressure on your jaw.
  • Avoid teeth whitening treatments or products that can temporarily make the teeth more sensitive. If you want to whiten your teeth, consult your dentist first and follow their instructions carefully.
  • During these cold days, you can protect your teeth from the weather by wearing a scarf or a mask that can cover your mouth and nose. Breathe through your nose instead of your mouth to avoid exposing your teeth to cold air.

How can we help you?

People experiencing tooth sensitivity don't have to endure the pain and discomfort. At Norfolk Dental Specialists, we have a team of experienced and friendly hygienists who can help you with your dental needs. They can also advise you on the best oral hygiene products and practices to prevent and treat tooth sensitivity.

To book an appointment with one of our hygienists, please call us on 01603 632525.

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