How Does the Winter Affect Your Teeth?

Updated August 17, 2016

Do you plug your car in nightly? Do you have to scrape a half an inch of ice off your windshield before you can leave for work? Does your winter mask only have holes for your eyes and your mouth? If so, you deal with cold air on a daily basis. Cold air and colder temperatures mean you live in the deep freeze! How does all this cold air affect your teeth?

Sensitive teeth are more common than you might think, although that stinging zing of pain you feel when something sets off your sensitivity probably makes it easy to think otherwise. Your teeth enjoy living in your mouth, where the temperature is warm and cozy. Exposure to colder or hotter temperatures doesn't make them happy, so winter weather is often a worry for anyone who suffers from sensitive teeth. Is there any way to protect your teeth when the temperatures drop low?

Image via Flickr by Ryan Hyde

The Temperature and Your Teeth

Teeth are strong and hard, but they're also porous and thus sensitive by their very nature. At some point, it's entirely likely that everyone will feel a bit of pain when they drink a hot beverage or bite down on a popsicle. Generally speaking, being out in the cold weather won't bother the average pair of teeth, but it does have an effect.

When you breathe through your mouth in the cold air, your teeth can contract, which lets the frigid air touch any of the sensitive spaces on your teeth, especially right along your gum line. Then, once you close your mouth and your teeth settle in back home, the warmer temperatures encourage them to expand again. As that continues to happen over time, it can create tiny cracks and fissures in your teeth. Those cracks create even more sensitivity to extreme temperatures. You may not know they're there, which is also why it's crucial to find a provider you trust

If your teeth do have a sensitivity to the cold and you are experiencing cracks and fissures in your teeth from a lifetime of contraction and expansion in cold air, how do you prevent pain and irritation from cold air or cold and warm beverages?

There are a few treatments on the market for alleviating your sensitive teeth. You can choose to try at home remedies such as toothpaste that is formulated to assist with an individual who suffers from sensitive teeth. Toothpaste such as Sensodyne is made with ingredients to help the sensitive tooth sufferer get relief from the pain they experience from hot or cold foods or a mix of wintry air! The main component in these types of toothpaste is potassium nitrate. Potassium used in this way stops nerve pain by stopping the nerve to send out the painful sensation.

Another at home remedy to try to fight sensitive teeth from cold air or cold beverages are fluoride treatments. Over-the-counter fluoride rinses help sensitive teeth by strengthening both exposed dentin as well as tooth enamel. This strengthening causes the sensitive teeth to become less sensitive to temperature changes.

There are also in-office treatments you can try from your dentist if you have tried the above two at home options with no results. Some of these options include crowns or fillings placed by the dentist to cover the exposed area, grafting of the gum to protect or conceal the exposed tooth, or treatment provided by the dentist in which he performs a root canal. With no root to cause you pain, you will no longer suffer from nerve pain from that tooth that had the root canal.

So, in short, the cold weather can absolutely affect your teeth.

Breathe Better

When you're out in the cold air, you need to take care of yourself. You know the importance of protecting your hair and skin from the sun, and you protect the rest of your body from the cold. Do the same for your teeth. For starters, always try to breathe through your nose. If that's not possible, protect your face. Try filtering the air through a scarf, a sweater, or a balaclava.

An excellent way to keep the cold air out of your mouth is to wear a mask that covers your mouth, so the air you breathe in has already been warmed through the mask. This is the same reason you want to breathe in through your nose. When you do this, the air is filtered through your nasal passages and warmed before it travels down your trachea and into your lungs. If you take a deep inhale of pure cold air, it can feel like burning in your trachea and lungs because of the cold non-warmed air that passed directly into your lungs.

Another fantastic idea to combat cold air that causes sensitive teeth: Move to the Caribbean where there is no cold wintry air with which to deal. Instead, you could be lying on a beach with a drink in hand, inhaling the fragrance of the humid sea salt air while soaking up the sun. Doesn’t that sound like a lot more fun?!

Practice Smart Oral Hygiene

You can also help your teeth from within. Make a few changes in your oral hygiene routine. For example, look for over-the-counter toothpaste, such as Sensodyne, which can reduce your sensitivity if you brush regularly. Certain mouthwashes are likewise helpful, but it's best to use them at room temperature. Keep an eye out for mouthwashes that contain fluoride. Flossing is a good idea as well, but be gentle around particularly sensitive teeth. If your teeth are very sensitive, consider switching to a toothbrush with soft bristles.

Regular dental checkups will help more than anything. Find a dental plan that works for you, and go in for a checkup twice a year, especially around winter. That way your dentist can quickly spot any fine cracks in your teeth, plus, he or she can help you come up with a plan of action for tackling your sensitivity.

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