Is Cold Weather Causing Your Tooth Pain?
Did you know? Very cold weather can trigger the same jaw and tooth pain as eating frozen treats like ice cream or drinking cold beverages. If you’ve ever noticed your teeth suddenly becoming sensitive during the winter months, it could be due, in part, to being exposed to the cooler temperatures.
Contraction and Expansion
When exposed to very cold air, your teeth can contract, resulting in tiny fissures in the outer, protective surface of your teeth, the enamel. This can expose the underlying dentin and its nerve fibres, resulting in tooth pain similar to that experienced with moderate to severe gum disease or cavities. Your tooth enamel may be the hardest material in the body but its naturally sensitive and porous structure leaves it vulnerable to sudden changes in temperature. How, exactly?
The protective layer of your teeth, the enamel, is ideally suited to serve and protect your tooth at body temperature, but, when your teeth are exposed to cold air through your open mouth, they have a natural tendency to contract. Once your mouth closes, and the temperature inside rises, your teeth can then expand back to normal. For a mental picture, recall your most recent drive on any Alberta road dodging pot-holes created as the road surface expands in the summer heat and then contracts as the winter cold settles in. Over time, the expansion and contraction of your tooth enamel can lead to hairline cracks in your teeth, similar to pot-holes, though you may not even realise these tiny cracks in your enamel are even there.
Relax, Breath Through Your Nose
Another reason you might be more prone to experiencing jaw or tooth pain in the winter is that most of us naturally tense up as we prepare to step out or spend any amount of time in the cold. Muscle tensing causes tightening of the head, neck, and shoulders and can include clenching the jaw. Dressing appropriately for winter activities, consuming warm-not hot-beverages, and staying active during cold weather exposure may all help minimize the amount of tensing your body does in winter. Practice breathing through your nose as much as possible when you’re outside, this effort alone can go along way to preventing cold air rushing over your teeth and causing you pain.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene at Home
Tooth sensitivity can become an even bigger threat in winter if you are not practicing good oral hygiene all year round. Proper brushing and flossing and regular dental check ups and professional cleanings help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Chronic gum disease and tooth decay can cause gum recession and pockets to form around teeth exposing the highly sensitive dentin beneath the gum line. Brushing your teeth for a minimum of two minutes twice daily and flossing regularly will help prevent residue from food and drinks building up between your teeth. Floss can get at harder to reach places between teeth that brushing alone cannot reach. Food residue that is allowed to remain on the tooth surface hardens and turns into plaque and tartar and eventually decay. Decay erodes enamel, eroded enamel results in exposed nerves which equals pain. Fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash can help remineralize enamel to combat bacteria by making your teeth less vulnerable to erosion by acids and sugars.
Dental Check Ups and Professional Cleanings
Even when you practice good at-home dental hygiene, it is essential for everyone to book a regular dental check up and professional cleaning with your dentist and dental hygienist at least twice a year. One more way to combat cold weather tooth issues is to speak to your dentist and hygienist about fluoride application which can help reduce tooth sensitivity to weather by strengthening your enamel and dentin.
The Low-Down on Tooth Pain
Cold air can cause your teeth to hurt even if the exposure is only for a short time. However, when you close your mouth – covering your teeth with your lips – the discomfort should quickly wear off as saliva resumes circulation in your mouth and warms up your teeth. Saliva flow is also important to flush away oral bacteria that threatens tooth enamel. If your tooth sensitivity lasts for more than a few days, at any time of year, we’d suggest you come see the dentist to rule out any underlying issues with your teeth.
Other issues that can cause tooth pain include decayed or infected teeth, fillings that have become loose or have fallen out, crowns that have cracked or worn down over time, gum disease, or misaligned teeth or bite causing clenching and grinding.
For further advice on how to help prevent tooth sensitivity during cold weather, or any time of year, contact the friendly staff at Groove Dental in our Edmonton office.