If eating ice cream and drinking cold drinks make your teeth hurt, you are probably suffering from cold-sensitive teeth. Cold-sensitive teeth are not uncommon, but it’s important to understand the difference between cold-sensitive teeth and tooth decay or gum disease. Cold-sensitive teeth occur when the nerves within the tooth are exposed due to receding gums or worn tooth enamel.
Have you ever wondered why you have teeth sensitive to cold? Causes of cold-sensitive teeth fall into several categories:
- Tooth Decay or Gum Disease: If your cold-sensitive teeth also hurt when you aren’t eating or drinking something cold, you could be in the early stages of tooth decay or gum disease. Plaque buildup on the teeth and gums can contribute to cold-sensitive teeth by eventually leading to tooth decay and gum disease. 80% of sensitivity starts at the gum line, so switch to a toothpaste that’s good for your gums to treat sensitivity at the source.
- Overzealous Product Use: External factors that could cause cold-sensitive teeth include brushing your teeth too hard, overusing tooth whitening treatments, or acids from everyday food and drinks, like wine, coffee, and tomatoes, that can cause irreversible loss of your tooth enamel.
- Grinding Teeth and Stress: Cold-sensitive teeth also can develop if excessive tooth grinding (bruxism) wears away the tooth enamel and exposes nerves. If you think that you are grinding your teeth, see your dental professional and ask about options for how to protect your teeth.
- Exposed Nerve Roots: The biological reason behind teeth sensitivity to cold starts in the pulp of the tooth. The nerves in the pulp make teeth sensitive to cold when tooth roots become exposed due to receding gums or gum disease. Pathways called dentinal tubules are filled with fluid, and when a stimulus like cold air or cold liquid is applied to the exposed dentinal tubules, the fluid in the tubules moves and triggers a pain sensation in the nerve.
- Cracks in Teeth: Over time, tiny cracks can develop as your teeth expand and contract with exposure to hot and cold temperatures. The cracks provide another pathway to the nerves, making the teeth sensitive to cold. Check for lines that could indicate microscopic cracks.
- Receding Gums: If you notice persistent sensitivity to cold or heat in your teeth, give them a closer look. Check your gum line to see whether your gums are pulling away from your teeth. Receding gums can make it easier for feelings of hot and cold to travel to the nerves in your teeth.
If you've noticed that your teeth have sensitivity to cold, you're not alone. Studies suggest that at least 45 million adults in the United States complain that they suffer from teeth sensitivity to cold, heat, or other stimuli. Some people notice teeth sensitivity to cold after being outside in cold air.
- Avoid Cold and Acidic Foods: If you have teeth sensitive to cold, try to avoid biting into very cold foods—for example, lick your ice cream instead of biting into it.
- Use a Soft Toothbrush: In addition, if you have teeth sensitive to cold, be sure to use a toothbrush with soft bristles. A soft-bristled brush can help reduce the gum irritation that may make teeth sensitive. Try using soft dental floss, too.
- Use a Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth: Crest Gum and Sensitivity toothpaste is designed to reduce the cold sensitivity in teeth by treating it at the source: your gum line. Crest Gum and Sensitivity starts treating sensitivity immediately for relief within days, helping protect sensitive teeth while fighting cavities and plaque.
If you notice unusual teeth sensitivity to cold or heat that persists for several days, make an appointment with your dentist. Sometimes what feels like sensitivity to cold could be a tooth abscess or an unidentified cavity, and prompt treatment is important to keep these problems from getting worse.
If you have cold-sensitive teeth, check with your dentist for suggestions about how to help keep your teeth healthy.
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