Ouch! Maybe it’s a fresh smoothie, a spoonful of ice cream, or even just a sip of ice water—but there it is, throbbing tooth pain.
There are many reasons why you might be experiencing tooth sensitivity to cold. Fortunately, you can take several steps to remedy this yourself, including checking with your dentist.
Other symptoms often accompany sensitivity to cold, including:
But what conditions cause these kinds of tooth sensitivity?
Tooth enamel, the hardest substance in your body, covers your tooth above the gumline. However, the root of your tooth, the part normally covered by your gums, does not have this protective layer. If you don’t brush and floss regularly—or if you brush and floss too vigorously—your gums may recede, exposing the roots of one or more of your teeth.
If you have exposed roots, the best course of action is to follow general oral hygiene. Continue brushing and flossing, but use a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste specifically made for sensitive teeth. If the pain continues, though, make sure to see your dentist.
Small cavities can also become sensitive to cold food or drinks. Cavities occur in the enamel itself, and expose the nerve inside your tooth to cold, heat, and other sources of discomfort.
While you should continue flossing and brushing, you should see a dentist to diagnose and treat your condition. If the cavity is small, a dentist can remove the decayed area and fill the tooth. If it’s more serious, you may need a root canal to clean out the decay, disinfect the root, and seal the tooth.
Sometimes dental work can temporarily cause your teeth to become sensitive to cold or hot foods, from a few days to a week or longer if you’ve had a filling or a crown placed.
In these cases, over the counter pain relievers like aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen should bring you relief. But if the pain persists or worsens, definitely contact your dentist!
In general, you can address temporary tooth sensitivity to cold with the standard elements of good oral hygiene: regular brushing and flossing, as well as routine preventive care visits to your dentist. Consider using toothpaste specifically made for sensitive teeth or adding a fluoride mouth rinse to your daily routine.
However, if your sensitivity lingers, it could indicate that you have a more serious dental condition. The pulp—the interior of your teeth—could be damaged, either from long-term tooth decay or an injury. It’s important to see a dentist before you develop an infection that could put your tooth at risk.