If your teeth hurt with cold, you are not alone. Even people who have had no tooth sensitivity issues can experience periodic cold sensitive teeth. Why does this occur? The three main reasons your teeth hurt with cold are illness, diet, and extremes of temperature outside. Here’s what you should know about each.

What are cold-sensitive teeth?

An estimated 45 million people in the U.S. experience cold sensitive teeth at some point in their lives. It is a fairly common condition that is highly treatable.

If your teeth hurt with cold, the mechanism behind this is simple. For some reason, the sensitive nerves inside the teeth are exposed. Exposed nerves are then susceptible to any kind of stimulation, including changes in temperature and even different types of food (e.g., sugar).

How does enamel typically become exposed?

1. Bruxism

One of the most common (and quickest) ways to expose tooth enamel is through bruxism. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching place extraordinary pressure on even the hardest and healthiest of teeth, stripping away protective layers and exposing sensitive nerves.

Bruxism can also lead to cracks or fractures in teeth that can progress to infected dental pulp and other complications.

2. Tooth decay and gum disease

Tooth decay and gum disease can increase tooth sensitivity, either by a gradual wearing of enamel or through painful conditions inside the dental pulp.

In these cases, pain may occur as a result of both pressure combined with temperature that makes teeth sensitive.

3. Overuse of teeth whitening products

Everyone wants to have a bright and shining smile, but there is too much of a good thing when it comes to teeth whitening.

Overuse of teeth whitening products can thin tooth enamel and cause teeth to hurt with cold.

4. Harsh brushing

Another case of overdoing something good is overbrushing. Using a hard toothbrush and brushing teeth too vigorously can begin to wear enamel away, causing cold sensitive teeth.

There are other reasons you might experience tooth sensitivity. Some people find their teeth are more sensitive after dental work, and some pregnant women notice that hormonal changes that affect their gums cause sensitivity. People suffering from bulimia may also experience enamel loss and tooth damage due to excessive stomach acid flowing over the teeth regularly.

Why do my teeth hurt with cold foods or drinks?

When most people take a swig of cold soda or that first sip of hot coffee, the only thing they feel is refreshed or energized. For others, cold (and sometimes hot) food and drinks send a stab of sharp, shooting pain directly down into their jaw.

The most common cause of this type of cold tooth sensitivity is worn enamel. If your teeth are worn down by bruxism, it’s important to talk to your dentist about a bruxism night guard or other bruxism treatments. Without treating the bruxism, the problem could remain and may only get worse (think cracked teeth and infected dental pulp).

If tooth enamel is worn due to overuse of teeth whitening treatments, talk to your dentist. Professional, in-office teeth whitening may be able to get you the results you want in fewer treatments, minimizing the risk of cold sensitive teeth. If you prefer at-home whitening, follow the directions exactly, or talk to your dentist about prescription whitening you can do at home.

Avoiding highly acidic food and drinks (e.g., tomatoes, red wine, citrus) and sugar can help protect your enamel. Replace these with healthy foods high in calcium to protect what enamel remains and prevent future loss.

Finally, make sure you are brushing properly. Switch to a soft brush, and brush properly twice a day. If you habitually brush after every meal, it may be okay to switch to simply rinsing your mouth with water and only brushing twice a day. Again, talk to your dentist for good guidance on how to protect your enamel.

Can cold weather make your teeth hurt?

Much like tooth sensitivity that occurs when you eat or drink hot or cold foods, cold weather can also prompt a twinge of pain. Cold air brushing past exposed nerves can lead to the pain.

In addition to taking the steps above to protect your enamel, you can also remineralize the remaining enamel with special toothpastes and mouthwashes.

Damaged enamel cannot be replaced, but remineralization can help strengthen what is left and may actually add a protective layer to areas of thinner enamel. You might find that this, in conjunction with changes to diet and brushing habits, is enough to help relieve cold sensitive teeth.

Why do my teeth hurt when I have a cold?

In one of the most surprising causes of teeth sensitivity, many people experience painfully cold sensitive teeth when they have a cold. Especially for head colds and sinus infections that increase pressure and inflammation, you may notice that when you lean over or lay down your teeth hurt.

During allergy season, this kind of pressure and swelling may also cause your teeth to hurt. Ear infections can also result in tooth pain on the side with the infection.

The best way to treat this is to treat the underlying cold or sinus or ear infection. Most people find that this type of tooth sensitivity clears up right along with the sniffles. Using a saline spray or a nasal decongestant can help while you are waiting for the cold to run its course. In the case of a sinus infection, antibiotics will be necessary to both clear up the infection and relieve tooth pain.

Get help

For more advanced cases of tooth sensitivity, a deep cleaning at the dentist or another procedure can help.

It’s important to identify the root cause of your tooth sensitivity to get the right treatment. If your teeth hurt with cold, give AZ Dentist a call. We can help.