Fall is officially here, and with the change in seasons comes the approaching colder weather. While many aspects of fall can be pleasurable like turning leaves, bonfires and so much more, there can also be some uncomfortable sensations that come with the colder temperatures. One you may wonder about is the increase in tooth sensitivity as the temperatures drop. But is this a real condition? Let’s get to the bottom of the question: “does cold weather cause tooth sensitivity?”
First thing is first, is what you’re experiencing in the fall and winter a symptom of tooth sensitivity? Well the symptoms are quite easy to discern actually. They consist of a sharp or dull ache when your teeth are exposed to an outside agent. This could be something as simple as brushing your teeth or flossing, or it can happen when you eat certain foods high in acid or sugar. Temperature can also play a big part in tooth sensitivity, but it’s usually described in terms of “eating hot or cold foods.” While this is the easiest way to illustrate sensitivity due to temperature, a blast of cold air or simply breathing outside when it is cold can cause sensitivity as well.
So to answer your question - yes you are not imagining things, cold weather can trigger pain associated with tooth sensitivity. Yet perhaps the better questions to ask are why and what can you do about it?
Simply put - tooth sensitivity is damage to your enamel or tooth roots that is aggravated by an outside agent, be it temperature, acid, or otherwise. Essentially this outside agent reaches the nerve in your teeth through decay or damage and irritates it. Your enamel and tooth roots can be damaged in a variety of ways. Excess plaque and tartar on your teeth can create cavities that serve as pathways for irritation. Other times trauma or injury can open up the possibility of tooth sensitivity. However it occurs, it’s important to go to your dentist for regular checkups and seek immediate care in the event of any dental injury.
Since tooth sensitivity troubles some patients more in the colder months of the year than in the summer, it’s wise to consciously alter your efforts to prepare for increased sensitivity. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
CHANGE YOUR TOOTHPASTE
You may not realize that your toothpaste may be contributing to your tooth sensitivity, but it can actually have a big impact. This is because of the bleaching agents found in whitening toothpaste. While we all want white teeth, too much exposure to the bleaching agents, especially if you have vulnerable enamel or roots, can create pain on its own. Switching to a toothpaste rated for sensitive teeth will help alleviate this.
MONITOR YOUR BRUSHING HABITS
Applying too much pressure to your teeth while brushing can also aggravate tooth sensitivity, but you might not know you’re brushing too hard in the first place. The easiest way to check is to watch the bristles on your brush. If the bristles are bending when you press the brush to your teeth, then you’re probably brushing too hard. Truly only gentle contact from your brush is needed to get the maximum hygiene benefit. One other quick tip - make sure you’re brushing with a soft or ultra soft brush head. This will help reduce harmful abrasion while you brush.
There is a misconception that many have around staying hydrated in the summer vs. the winter. While it's obvious you need to stay hydrated in the summer due to sweating and heat, many feel like it’s less of a concern to stay hydrated in the winter. However the cold, dry months of late fall and winter can dehydrate you just as much as a hot summer day. Worse yet, you’re less likely to feel dehydrated during this time, which only contributes to the problem. Studies have shown that your teeth are impacted by chronic dehydration as well, which could worsen symptoms of tooth sensitivity. Even in the cold weather, make sure to drink your daily allotment of water, at least half a gallon per day.
ALTER YOUR DIET
While it may be tempting to load up on hot drinks like coffee, hot chocolate, or tea in the winter, these beverages actually contribute to the symptoms of tooth sensitivity. The winter is a good chance to exercise restraint around these beverages and change your diet to reduce sensitivity symptoms. Don’t forget, hot beverages can also cause sensitivity pain on their own, which creates a “double whammy” effect in cold weather. You’re first experiencing pain from the cold air hitting your teeth as you breath, but then as you take a sip of a hot beverage, you receive sensitivity pain from it. In this case lukewarm foods and drinks are better options than hot food in the fall and winter.
While the above tips can certainly make a difference as you battle tooth sensitivity in the winter, you shouldn’t rely on them alone if you’re experiencing pain. As we detailed above, the likely cause of tooth sensitivity is that of tooth decay or damage. Meeting with your dentist to discuss your sensitivity and treatment options is the best way to reduce pain both now and in the winter months to come. Grace & Leedy Family Dentistry is happy to help with your pain from tooth sensitivity before the winter hits. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.