Tooth Sensitivity to the Cold

Tooth Sensitivity to the Cold

Winter Cold?

As the thermometer begins to drop, our body becomes more exposed to extreme temperatures. With these dropping temperatures our face and specifically teeth become more sensitive to the temperatures. Have you ever taken a step out side and been forced back in due to the pain of a breath of cold air? More commonly, ever eat an ice cream cone and not go back for a second bite? What causes this sensitivity and how can we alleviate it, to enjoy a banana split or this winter wonderland?


Eat too much ice cream or candy and you may cause some sensitivity. Deep tooth decay can cause sensitivity to cold and sweets. As the sugars sit on your teeth and penetrate through the outer dense enamel surface, they encounter the semi porous dentin layer. Tooth decay, or dental caries, spreads rapidly once it encounters the dentin layer and can lead to cold sensitivity.

Another possible cause for cold related pain can be gum recession. In the healthy teeth, gums are usually at the level where the cementum, or root, and enamel(white part) meet. As gum recession occurs more of the cementum becomes exposed leading to a shorter route of cold stimulus to the nerve of the tooth. The cold is more sensitive due to the fact the exposed cementum provides less thermal insulation than a normal gingival, gum architecture.

We, your dentist, can also cause cold sensitivity. Sometimes dental restorations, or fillings can cause teeth to become more sensitive to cold. As the decay is removed deep within the tooth, sometimes the filling can agitate the nerve of the tooth causing sensitivity. Additionally, composite (ie: white) filings shrink when placed, pulling the tooth and causing potential cold sensitivity.


Now that we understand some of the many potential cause of cold sensitivity, what can we do to alleviate these symptoms. In cases of deep decay, we can place a dental restoration. In placing these restorations we can place a medicine/thermal barrier at the depth of the cavity to provide protection against sensitivity.

When gum recession is involved the fix can be somewhat more complicated. Often surgery is required to properly reduce the recession. In this type of surgery a piece of tissue is harvested from one location in your mouth and placed over the area of recession.

Medicinal or therapeutic agents can also help the symptoms of sensitive teeth. Fluoride found in mouth rinses, toothpastes or varnish, can strengthen enamel and create a barrier to cold, helping with sensitivity. Other agents such as Potassium Nitrate, as found in Sensodyne toothpaste, can block the transmission of stimulus through channels of the tooth decreasing cold sensitivity.

Cold sensitivity can be painful and more importantly can be a deterrent from eating certain foods including ice cream. Other causes for tooth sensitivity may include a cracked tooth and bruxism, or grinding of teeth. If you are experiencing sensitivity with your teeth, visit your dentist or find us at (651) 455 – 1247, and let us help stop that cold sensitivity.