It’s common to have some sensitivity if you’re biting into an ice-cream cone or take a deep breath through your mouth on a sub-freezing day. What isn’t normal though, is when you experience a jolt every time you drink a glass of cool water.
Here are some of the most common causes of cold liquid sensitivity, and what you can do for your teeth to help the discomfort go away:
Exposed Root Surfaces
One of the biggest reasons for tooth sensitivity is because of gum recession. Your gingiva is supposed to cover the root surfaces of your teeth up to the crown. If your gums start to recede, it leaves the root surfaces exposed. By design, your roots are more porous and not protected by a strong enamel shell. Because of this, your nerve receptors are exposed to changes in the environment and much more hypersensitive to cold foods and drinks.
Receding gums can be caused by several factors, including brushing too aggressively, using a stiff-bristled brush (instead of a soft one,) grinding your teeth together, or orthodontic concerns. Many of these can be prevented with some guidance from your dentist. However, more significant gum recession may require a soft tissue graft.
Older Fillings and Crowns
Ageing restorations can start to leak over time. The open margins around your dental work allow foods, drinks, and bacteria to seep into deep crevices around your tooth. If your sensitivity is associated with just one or two teeth, it’s more likely that you need to have your restorations replaced.
During your exam, your dentist will likely request a set of x-rays to examine the areas around or below your existing dental work. While good oral hygiene can help you get the most out of your restorations as possible, they still wear down over time. It’s best to address symptoms as soon as they start to arise.
New Dental Work
If you’ve recently had a large filling or new crown placed, it can take a few weeks for your tooth to adjust to the change in its structure. Sometimes, the nerve inside of your tooth needs to “shrink back.” Until it does, it can be hypersensitive to temperature changes — especially cold.
To help avoid this, your dentist may use a desensitizer during your treatment. Otherwise, you may just want to take a few weeks for the sensitivity to slowly go away on its own. Try to avoid cold food or drinks on that side of your mouth, if possible. If it’s months later and you’re in excruciating pain — you need to see your dentist.
Although a tell-tale sign of dental nerve trauma is sensitivity to heat, it isn’t unheard of for your tooth to be sensitive to cold as well. Fortunately, if cold sensitivity is the only pain that you’re experiencing, it is likely that no nerve damage has occurred. Your dentist will need to perform special tests on your tooth to see if the nerve is still viable.
The Toothpaste You’re Using
Did you know that whitening toothpastes are probably one of the biggest causes of sensitive teeth? Whitening products help to open the pores of your teeth, releasing stain particles. As such, the nerve endings inside of those pores become more prone to sensitivity.
Consider switching to a toothpaste that is formulated for sensitive teeth. Such pastes help to seal off the pores rather than open them. It takes daily use, but after a couple of weeks most of the symptoms should be controllable.
Naturally Sensitive Teeth
From time to time, some people have completely healthy teeth but still experience cold sensitivity. During your checkup, ask your dentist for a desensitizing treatment such as a fluoride varnish. Such applications can help to relieve tooth sensitivity for up to three months afterward!
Any time you feel pain or sensitivity inside of your mouth, it’s important to take note of what your body is trying to tell you. Pain or severe discomfort is never normal. To prevent issues, it’s best to see your dentist and hygienist for a preventive care appointment at least every six months.
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