One in eight people experience tooth sensitivity and the causes are often linked to a deeper issue within the oral cavity such as tooth decay or grinding of the teeth. However, sometimes the cold winter weather just seems to make teeth ache when none of these problems are present. Is the cold air itself damaging our teeth or is it something more disconcerting?
This winter-sensitivity connection could be one of several things. Temperature changes and the corresponding contractions of the tooth structure could be the culprit. Sinus pressure associated with illness or allergies might also be creating the illusion of a toothache. Lastly, if your tooth’s enamel has been worn away, the cold air of winter could be affecting the nerves of a tooth’s roots. Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail.
Just as conflicting air temperatures cause weather changes and air/liquid dissimilar temperatures cause condensation, thermal stress within the tooth structure can cause pain. Our mouths change temperatures often depending on the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the drinks we consume. It’s been estimated that our front teeth often face fluxes as much as 120 Fahrenheit multiple times each day.
The tooth structure includes several layers. Between the nerve filled pulp and the hard, protective enamel is the soft dentin. Dentin contracts and expands with temperature change. If a temperature change happens quickly, the dentin responds faster than the enamel. This causes stress in the tooth structure. Often, small cracks develop. While these cracks don’t affect the tooth structure, they can cause discomfort.
Allergies and Sinus Pressure
Winter is the season when sinus and allergy cases soar. From basic allergies to body crippling influenza to deep nasal infections, many illnesses compromise the sinuses in an attempt to clean out the inflection. The resulting swelling and pain within the nasal cavity and throat can be misperceived for toothache.
When enamel erosion happens, either by external causes or gum recession, the miniscule tubes in dentin that attach to the nerves in the pulp respond. It can also leave the tooth exposed and vulnerable to decay. In this case, it would be wise to have your dentist take a look and figure out your best option. He or she might recommend sensitivity toothpaste, which either numbs the pain or builds up a layer that blocks off the openings of the dentin tubes affected by the cold. Another recommendation may be to have your dentist apply a varnish to the tooth or use a more permanent solution.
How to know it’s Time to Make a Dentist Appointment
The maximum number of days you should allow yourself to suffer from continued tooth pain is three days. If in that time the pain hasn’t diminished or you notice any gum recession, give us a call to schedule an appointment. It may just be the cold weather, but it could be something more serious.