You may love to go outdoors and play in the winter, but the cold air may be tough on your teeth. Perhaps you are wondering why your teeth are more sensitive in the cold weather. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, approximately 40 million adults in the United States suffer from sensitive teeth. In the extreme cold currently experienced in many areas, you need to know what is causing your tooth pain and what can be done to protect your teeth.
What is tooth sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity, also known as “dentin hypersensitivity,” is pain or discomfort in your teeth as a result of stimuli, such as hot or cold temperatures. The temperature in your mouth is constantly changing, depending on what we eat or drink, as well as the air we breathe.
When exposed to extreme heat and cold, your teeth expand and contract. As they expand and contract, tiny cracks may develop. The tooth structure contains several layers. The dentin is between the nerve-filled pulp and the protective enamel. The dentin contracts and expands with temperature change. Sudden changes in temperature can cause stress in the tooth structure and small cracks in the teeth. Even if these cracks do not affect the tooth structure, they can cause discomfort. The sensitivity may be chronic or only temporary. It may affect one tooth, several teeth, or all of your teeth.
What causes tooth sensitivity?
There are many causes for sensitive teeth which, combined with the cold weather, can cause discomfort. Common causes for sensitive teeth include:
Decay around the edges of fillings. Over time, fillings may weaken, leak around the edges, or break. When that happens, bacteria gather in the crevices, causing the enamel to break down. Generally, your dentist can easily fix this problem.
A cracked tooth. If you have a chipped or cracked tooth, you will almost certainly be aware of pain. Your dentist can choose the best treatment for the damaged tooth.
Gum disease. Gum disease is usually caused by inadequate dental hygiene which allows plaque to build up on your teeth and harden. Receding gums are common in aging individuals. Problems with your gums can cause tooth sensitivity.
Exposed dentin. If the enamel has started to wear away, the nerves in the teeth are more exposed to changes in temperature and the teeth may become sensitive.
Excessive plaque. There is a good reason to floss and brush. Good dental hygiene, including regular cleaning visits to your dentist, helps remove the plaque that forms on your teeth. The buildup of plaque erodes the tooth enamel, and the tooth becomes more sensitive.
Teeth grinding. An estimated 30 to 40 million children and adults in the United States grind their teeth. Occasional grinding or clenching the teeth may not damage the teeth, but eventually, it wears down the enamel. If grinding or clenching the teeth is an ongoing problem, consult your dentist. You may need a mouth guard to stop you from grinding.
A recent dental procedure. Most people experience some degree of sensitivity after a dental procedure, such as an extraction, root canal, or placement of a crown. If discomfort continues, however, you should contact your dentist, as it might be a sign of infection.
Excessive or hard brushing. You may be surprised to learn that it is possible to brush too hard. You may be using a hard-bristled toothbrush, or simply be applying too much force. Gradually, excessive brushing can wear down the enamel of your teeth and lead to sensitivity. The solution is to use a toothbrush with softer bristles and brush more gently.
Tooth-whitening toothpaste. Many kinds of toothpaste contain tooth-whitening chemicals to their toothpaste formulas. You may be sensitive to these types of toothpaste, so if you are experiencing sensitivity, try switching to a non-whitening formula.
Ingredients in mouthwash. Similar to whitening toothpaste, many over-the-counter mouthwashes and rinses contain alcohol and other ingredients, such as eucalyptol, menthol, thymol, and methyl salicylate. These ingredients may make your teeth more sensitive, particularly if your dentin is exposed. Consult your dentist about the best mouthwash for you.
Acidic foods. Acidic foods, such as tomatoes, lemons, grapefruit, kiwi, pickles, yogurt, and sports drinks can contribute to tooth sensitivity. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, one-third of 700 dentists surveyed said that acidic foods and beverages are the most frequent contributors to tooth sensitivity.
Symptoms of sensitive teeth
What triggers pain in sensitive teeth? You may experience discomfort as a result of:
- Cold air
- hot foods and drinks
- cold foods and drinks
- cold water, especially during routine dental cleanings
- acidic foods and beverages
- sweet foods and beverages
- brushing or flossing teeth
- mouth rinses containing alcohol or other chemical ingredients
Symptoms may be intermittent, and they may vary in intensity.
How to get relief from the pain
- Don’t breathe in and out through your mouth, because it puts your teeth in contact with the cold air. Instead, try to breathe in and out with your nose.
- Drink a warm beverage. If you love hot chocolate or hot tea, this is the time of year to indulge.
- Use mouthwash that contains fluoride two or three times a day. Fluoride can help protect sensitive teeth.
- Consider using a desensitizing toothpaste.
- Limit your exposure to cold air. When healthy teeth warm up, the discomfort usually goes away. If your teeth continue to hurt, you may have a bigger problem, such as tooth decay or gum disease.
Winter weather, with its bitter cold and icy winds, can be hard on your teeth. To avoid tooth sensitivity and other dental problems, the best form of prevention is to take good care of your teeth. If you are experiencing tooth pain or discomfort, consult your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist will be able to diagnose the problem and administer proper treatment. The skilled staff at Barron Family Dental are dedicated to providing the highest quality of patient care for all of your oral health needs. For more information or to make an appointment, contact us online or call (303) 284-6463.