Tooth pain and sensitive teeth are just plain annoying. It can rapidly suck the joy out of a good meal or a refreshing drink, robbing you of much-needed refreshment on a hot day. One of the more common kinds of tooth pain is sensitivity to temperature, particularly hot or cold drinks or foods. One of the more common questions dentists get is “why do cold items hurt my teeth?”, and the answer greatly depends on the individual’s overall oral health and personal needs. However, there are some common causes of sensitivity to heat or cold, and learning a bit about those may help you in turn understand your own teeth’s dislike of cold items.
Why Cold Hurts Your Teeth
There are a number of reasons why cold drinks or foods might hurt your teeth, but most of them share an underlying cause: damage of some sort has either eroded the hard shiny enamel surface of the tooth, leaving the inner nerves with less insulation from changes of temperature. It’s also possible that receding gums have left the roots partially exposed, which creates the same end result. So what causes eroding enamel or receding gums? Causes vary from person to person, but some of the more common culprits include:
- Gum disease, or gingivitis: this can cause receding gums and bacterial infections that can leave teeth sensitive to changes in temperature. Causes of gum disease include neglect, infection, or damage, so a visit to the dentist is in order.
- Diet can play a significant role as well. Acidic foods can eat away at the protective enamel layer and cause your teeth to become more susceptible to heat and cold.
- Teeth grinding, or bruxism is a leading cause of enamel erosion of and thus sensitive teeth. The causes of teeth grinding can vary but muscle tension caused by stress is often the culprit.
- Cracked or chipped teeth are especially sensitive to changes in temperature, as they damage gives the cold a pathway directly into the nerves of the tooth. Cracks and chips generally require dental treatments like a crown or bonding in order to repair them, so consulting your dentist is a must.
While these are some of the most common causes of sensitive teeth, there are other possibilities. If sensitive teeth are a recurring problem, you should consult your dentist as soon as possible.
Treating Sensitive Teeth
So how do we treat sensitive teeth, in particular teeth that dislike cold? Your options for treatment will depend on the causes of the sensitivity—if you have damage or infection you’ll need to consult your dentist and let them guide you through a course of treatment. However, there are some home remedies you can try for mild or occasional sensitivity:
- Avoiding excessively cold or hot foods is an obvious step, but it really can make a difference. Sometimes sensitivity clears up on its own if allowed a few days to heal, so watch what you eat for a bit and see if it helps.
- Avoiding acidic foods can prevent all sorts of problems with your teeth and gums, so taking it easy on things like coffee, tomatoes, wine, and other acidic food and drink may help your cold sensitive teeth.
- Switching to a softer toothbrush can make a difference for sensitive teeth and gums, as they’re just easier on them. You can find softer toothbrushes in many stores.
- Likewise, switching to a toothpaste for sensitive teeth may help a great deal. These toothpastes are formulated to protect gums and enamel and help lessen the sensitivity of the affected teeth. Like softer toothbrushes, they’re widely available in most stores.
Sensitive teeth are a cause for concern, but not for alarm. Take some sensible precautions and consult with your dentist to figure out what’s going on and then follow the treatment they suggest.