Cold Weather Toothaches: Causes & Remedies

Gentle Dental

snow and ice representing cold weather and temperatures

Many people associate tooth pain with cold weather, but is there really a link? Here’s what you should know about the reasons and treatments for tooth sensitivity.

Can Cold Temperatures Cause Tooth Pain?

A person can experience acute tooth sensitivity for a variety of reasons, including exposure to cold temperatures. In response to extreme cold or heat, teeth will expand and contract. Over an extended period of time, this can expose the vulnerable microscopic tubes, which lie just beneath your tooth enamel. Called dentin, this lower layer is covered in nerve fibers, which can become irritated in extreme temperatures.

Hot beverages, cold drinks, and chilly air can all cause dental discomfort. Weather sensitivity can occur no matter how well you care for your teeth. That said, you are at a greater risk if you don’t consistently practice good oral hygiene. To minimize sensitivity and identify the actual reasons for your dental pain, it’s important to know the most common causes of tooth sensitivity.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity typically occurs when tooth enamel wears down and exposes dentin. According to the American Dental Association, this can occur for a number of reasons, including;  

  • Periodontal disease: Diseases of the cementum, gums, alveolar bone, and periodontal ligament can expose dentin and promote tooth sensitivity.
  • Vigorous brushing: Many people think they need to press down hard to eliminate plaque and surface stains; however, brushing too forcefully can ultimately wear down enamel.
  • Bad habits: When people use tobacco products or fail to brush and floss, their gums can recede and leave dentin exposed.
  • Acidic beverages: Tea, coffee, sodas, and other acidic drinks can erode tooth enamel and expose the underlying dentin.
  • Grinding and clenching: Many people grind and clench their teeth when sleeping, causing tooth enamel to wear down.
  • Tooth decay:  Sensitivity to cold temperatures is a common sign of tooth decay and tooth fractures.
  • Teeth whitening agents: The ingredients in many teeth whitening strips can wear down enamel as they strip away stains. If you notice sensitivity after using one of these products, discontinue use and visit your dentist.

Treating Tooth Sensitivity

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, your dentist may recommend one or more of these treatment options:

  • Fluoride treatment: A natural mineral, fluoride can help strengthen tooth enamel and reduce tooth sensitivity.
  • Covering roots: Dentists often apply tooth-colored composite or do gum grafts over the exposed root area to fix problems related to gum recession.
  • Mouth guards: If you grind or clench your teeth, your dentist can create a custom mouth guard to keep you from damaging your teeth while sleeping.
  • Root canal therapy: Dentists can remove the soft pulp within teeth that have been damaged by fractures or deep decay. Removal of the nerve inside the tooth can reduce feelings of sensitivity.

When to See a Dentist

You should see a dentist any time you experience minor or severe tooth sensitivity. In some cases, a special toothpaste can help reduce tooth discomfort by numbing the affected area. In other instances a more aggressive treatment may be warranted. An experienced dentist can determine the exact cause of your sensitivity and recommend an effective treatment.