Why Do My Teeth Hurt in Cold Weather?

Posted by John Lee - January 1, 2016 - Uncategorized - No Comments

Between the rain and wind and the ice and snow, Portland can feel a bit dreary and cold during the winter months. Though you do your best to bundle up, your teeth can’t help but chatter whenever you go outside. Even worse, whenever you inhale through your mouth, you feel a sharp twinge of pain spreading from the tips of your incisors to your gums.

Is It The Weather or Something Else?

When closed, your mouth’s internal temperature should stay at about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But whenever you open your mouth, this temperature changes depending on the drinks you consume, the food you eat, and the air you breathe.

During the winter, the cold air from outside causes the different layers of your teeth to contract. If the inner dentin contracts faster than your outer enamel, the contraction stresses your tooth, resulting in discomfort and sensitivity.

However, sensitivity to cold can also happen for a variety of reasons, not just tooth contraction. Some of the most common factors include the following.

Defective or Large Metal Fillings

Although fillings last a long time, some materials deteriorate faster than others. Gold fillings, for example, last about 10 to 15 years. But composite fillings may only last about 5 years. As these fillings loosen and wear away, the softer inner layers of the tooth become vulnerable to decay and temperature changes.

Furthermore, metal fillings conduct heat more effectively than your enamel. As a result, they expand and contract more dramatically when exposed to temperature fluctuations.

Cracked or Chipped Teeth

If you grind your teeth or if you recently suffered oral damage, your teeth may have tiny cracks and fractures across the surface. The separated pieces will move slightly whenever you bite, chew, or speak. The movement irritates your tooth’s pulp, resulting in discomfort and pain.

Additionally, cracks in your teeth increase your risk for infection and tooth decay. If bacteria become trapped in the fissures, they’ll infect the pulp tissue and trigger inflammation.

Recessed or Infected Gums

When bacteria build up along the gum line, the infection irritates and damages the gum tissues. If left untreated, the gums will gradually pull away from the teeth, exposing more of the tooth’s root.

Your tooth’s root does not have protective enamel like the rest of your tooth. Instead, the root has a soft layer, or cementum, which wears away quickly when exposed. Once the cementum has deteriorated, your tooth’s root will remain highly sensitive to temperature changes.

Ways You Can Minimize Sensitivity

Although you can’t change Portland’s weather, you can take steps to protect your teeth and minimize sensitivity.

Breathe Through Your Nose

Your lips, tongue, and cheeks all protect, warm, and insulate your teeth against the cold. So whenever possible, breathe through your nose rather than your mouth this winter.

If you struggle to breathe through your nose, consider wearing a protective ski mask or similar item to trap heat close to your mouth.

Use the Right Toothpaste

Not all toothpastes are created equal. Some brands fight cavities more effectively than others, while others focus more on whitening your smile. If you suffer from tooth sensitivity, opt for a toothpaste formulated specifically for sensitive teeth.

The right toothpaste contains ingredients that protect your exposed dentin and minimize pain whenever you eat and drink. And some brands also contain fluoride to reinforce your enamel, increasing your tooth’s resistance against decay and infection.

Talk to Your Dentist

Your dentist can help you determine the underlying cause for your sensitive teeth and recommend the right treatment for you. For example, if you grind your teeth at night, he or she may recommend a mouth guard to prevent chips and cracks. Or if you have recessed gums, your dentist may recommend a deeper cleaning, or scaling, to prevent further gum damage.

When you follow your dentist’s instructions and practice good oral hygiene, your teeth will stay comfortable despite the chilly weather.