The winter season may be filled with holidays, but the coldest months of the year also cause health challenges you might not experience at any other time. In our last blog, “4 Ways to Be Nice to Your Teeth This Holiday Season,” we provided strategies for protecting your teeth from common holiday hazards.
In this blog, we discuss how the winter weather itself may affect your teeth. Below we list six reasons why you may experience more frequent or intense tooth sensitivity over the winter.
- Aggressive Brushing
Brushing your teeth is an essential way to maintain your oral health. However, brushing your teeth incorrectly can contribute to certain oral conditions, including sensitivity. When you brush too aggressively or with a stiff-bristled brush, you can wear down the outer layer of enamel.
When the enamel thins, the inner layers of your teeth become exposed, causing pain and sensitivity.
You may resort to short, aggressive brushing sessions more often in the winter, leading to more frequent sensitivity. Some people may have to shorten the time spent on the
ir hygiene routines to ensure they have the time to commute on winter roads.
Give yourself plenty of time to brush, and brush gently. Consult with your dentist to determine whether you’re using the right brush type for your mouth.
- Hot Beverages
Many individuals who experience tooth sensitivity have pain related to a specific type of stimuli, such as extreme temperatures. In the winter, you may drink more hot beverages overall. Warm beverages can exacerbate existing sensitivity.
Additionally, when you drink a hot beverage while outside during the winter, you’re more likely to feel tooth sensitivity. The larger temperature difference irritates exposed nerve endings, causing more intense pain.
As you visit friends and family for the holidays, you want to look your best. You may use at-home tooth whitening to brighten your smile for family pictures and your company Christmas party. However, you should always exercise restraint when whitening your teeth and do so under the care of a dentist.
Some whitening solutions that you can buy at the drugstore contain harsh chemicals that may weaken your enamel, causing tooth sensitivity.
Before you begin a whitening regimen, discuss your options with your dentist. He or she may recommend an in-office procedure, refer you to a specialist, or prescribe a high-quality whitening solution for you to use at home. Follow the whitening solution’s instructions and contact your dentist if you notice an increase in your tooth sensitivity.
- Seasonal Illness
Not all tooth sensitivity stems directly from the condition of your tooth enamel. Pain in the areas around your teeth can also cause sensitivity. For example, jaw conditions can cause sensitivity.
In the winter, you may be more susceptible to colds, flus, and sinus infections. These seasonal illnesses can all contribute to sensitive teeth because they inflame the maxillary sinus.
If you notice sensitivity that mainly affects your upper front teeth and occurs at the same time as a head cold or case of the flu, your illness may be causing the sensitivity. The maxillary sinus sits directly above your upper front teeth and, when the sinus becomes inflamed, may put pressure on that area.
- Sugary Foods
Many winter holidays feature rich, sugary foods. While these foods may encourage holiday cheer, they also increase your risk of tooth decay. Even small cavities can expose the nerves in your teeth, causing tooth sensitivity.
While it’s important to clean your teeth after a sugary treat, don’t brush immediately. Instead, drink a glass of water or chew sugar-free gum to help remove some of the remaining particles. Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth.
Right after you eat acidic and sugary foods, your tooth enamel is at its weakest. Brushing your teeth during this time period can have the same negative effects as aggressive brushing or over-whitening.
- Thermal Stress
If you already have tooth sensitivity, you likely experience discomfort whenever your teeth become cold. In the coldest parts of winter, however, the low temperature itself can cause tooth damage that contributes to sensitivity.
Like most materials, your tooth enamel expands when warm and contracts when cold. When exposed to extreme cold or to short intervals of extreme cold and warmth, your teeth may experience thermal stress. In serious cases, thermal stress leaves tiny cracks in your enamel as it contracts, exposing the inner layer of your teeth and causing sensitivity.
If you have wintertime tooth sensitivity, schedule an appointment with Apollo Dental Center. It’s important to identify whether gum disease or tooth decay are contributing to your discomfort. Once we determine the causes of your tooth sensitivity, our team can recommend strategies to decrease your pain and reduce the risk of future sensitivity.
In many cases, a simple step like changing your brushing practices can make your teeth stronger and less sensitive, whatever the weather.