Are frozen summer treats making your teeth sensitive? 

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Do you find yourself cringing when you bite right into an ice cream cone? You’re definitely not alone. The International Dental Journal estimates that nearly 57% of adults have sensitive teeth, and exposure to cold is a super-common trigger.

What makes teeth sensitive to the cold? There are a lot of different reasons for sensitivity, so without seeing you in person it’s impossible to say exactly what’s affecting you! Most of the time, it’s related to a stimulus like cold liquid coming into contact with a part of your tooth called the dentin inside your teeth which are generally not exposed. This can either be because your gums or your tooth enamel is not effectively protecting the inside of your teeth. In either case, the softer underlying layer of your teeth becomes vulnerable to irritation and sensitivity because it connects to your tooth’s inner nerve center. Here are some of the reasons you could be experiencing sensitivity to cold:

  • Receding gums caused by gum disease that leave sensitive areas of your tooth uncovered
  • Aging leading to tiny cracks developing as your teeth expand and contract with exposure to hot and cold temperatures over time.
  • Drinking or eating acidic foods which cause protective enamel to temporarily lose minerals, and soften. Over time, this can actually erode enamel.
  • Acid reflux can gradually wear away the enamel on the back of your teeth
  • Tooth grinding can wear away enamel through friction and extreme grinding can even cause cracks
  • Brushing your teeth and gums too hard. You can usually tell if you are doing this when the bristles on your toothbrush stick out in all directions!
  • Recent tooth whitening dehydrating your teeth
  • A chipped or broken tooth where the dentin or nerve is totally exposed
  • Nerve damage or physical trauma to your tooth structure
  • Cavities

If you’re experiencing sensitivity, please let us know. We might recommend using over-the-counter toothpaste with special ingredients to help you feel better. Potassium Nitrate can soothe the nerves inside the tooth, and Stannous Fluoride can help to layer over exposed nerves to create a barrier to pain triggers. Your hygienist can also give you a desensitizing treatment here in the office and send you home with prescription strength sensitivity rinses. While mild, fleeting sensitivity is usually not a sign of a more serious problem, sensitivity to cold can be a symptom of an underlying issue that needs attention.  If that’s the case, you may need a root canal or a restorative treatment like a crown to help reverse your discomfort and get back to those popsicles!

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