If the mere thought of a winter immediately makes your teeth tingle, you might be one of the many people with a sensitivity to cold air. And guess what? It’s true, colder temperatures can make already sensitive teeth feel even more sensitive.
More patients report tooth sensitivity in colder months, especially in younger 18 to 44-year-olds that show gingival recession (a breakdown of gums).
Your teeth might not look like a hub of feelings, but within each tooth are nerves responsible for different sensations. In people with certain dental issues, these sensations can turn painful when exposed to temperature differences, including super cold or boiling temps. You also may notice pain or discomfort when you go from the cold outdoors to a warmer indoor temperature.
Typically, when the inflammation or recession of the gums or pores in the tooth enamel is present, a stimulus like cold will cause sudden short, sharp pain.
Cold temperatures tend to be the major offender which is why you may notice cold temperatures—or mouth breathing in colder temperatures—trigger that sharp pain in your teeth. On the other hand, some unlucky people are just prone to tooth sensitivity without an underlying dental problem.
8 dentist-approved tips to protect teeth sensitive to cold air
While there aren’t tests that definitively diagnose tooth sensitivity, seeing a dentist can help rule out other more concerning underlying causes. These could be decay, cracked tooth, dental trauma, gingivitis, or periodontal disease.
If you don’t have anything wrong with your tooth (and hopefully you don’t), we recommend trying the following to reduce tooth sensitivity:
- Use a soft-bristled brush instead of a hard-bristled one
- Brush your teeth with a non-abrasive toothpaste and avoid toothpaste marketed to remove stains that may contain ingredients such as aluminum oxide or calcium pyrophosphate
- Purchase toothpaste made for those with sensitive teeth
- Don’t brush your teeth too hard - you can clean your teeth well without harshly scrubbing them
- Hold your toothbrush in a vertical (up-and-down) orientation and brush each tooth individually as this can help reduce injury to your teeth and gums
- Wear a mouthguard at night if you grind your teeth
- Avoid foods that cause increased sensitivity for you like vinegar-containing foods, fruit juices, and soft drinks
- If you’re especially sensitive to the wind hitting your face, consider wearing a scarf or mask over your mouth to reduce cold sensations
Here are 10 home remedies for tooth sensitivity during winter which may also help:
- Sip on warm beverages
- Stay hydrated
- Clove oil
- Increase vitamin D intake
- Avoid whitening treatments
- Breathe through your nose
- Warm saline rinses
- Limit your intake of acidic liquids
- Brush twice a day
If none of these work, it's time to set up an appointment with your dentist
Lifestyle changes may not be enough for the severely tooth-sensitive, but don't fret, there are other options. For persistent sensitivity, your dentist may recommend using gels, varnishes, or other applied solutions known as “desensitising agents” that help further reduce sensitivity.
These approaches may help to reduce nerve transmissions that tell your brain cold sensations are painful. If these methods still don't work, and the sensitivity appears aimed at a particular tooth, we may recommend other procedures to restore or protect your tooth.
If you notice increased tooth sensitivity and haven’t seen your dentist in a while, it may be time to make an appointment.