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Woman eating a popsicle. Woman eating a popsicle. Woman eating a popsicle.

Is Your Tooth Sensitive to Cold or Hot Temperatures: Finding Relief

Reverse the pain of a tooth sensitive to cold to enjoy that ice cream again.

Imagine taking a bite into a big scoop of chocolate chip ice cream on top of a crunchy waffle cone. Are you wincing at even the thought? Or what about that morning cup of coffee? It can be a luxurious treat, unless, of course, you have teeth sensitive to hot beverages. Then you might find yourself wincing through the whole experience that's supposed to get your day off on the right foot.

You aren't alone. Lots of people deal with the pain of having a tooth sensitive to cold or hot temperatures. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, 40 million adults in the United States suffer from sensitive teeth at some point in their lifetime. The good news is that there are things you can do to alleviate the pain. Even better, there are actually some ways to reverse it.

Causes of Sensitive Teeth

Your tooth is made up of layers of tissue that keep the roots and the nerves covered and safe from harm, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Enamel, the outermost layer, protects the part of the tooth that sits above the gumline. Cementum protects the root beneath the gumline. Dentin is the tissue below the enamel and cementum. Even though dentin is a hard tissue it contains microscopic tubules that lead directly to center of the tooth. When your enamel becomes weakened or erodes, it exposes the dentin and those tubules create a direct path from that frosty ice cream or hot tea to the roots and nerves.

Sensitivity to Cold

When you have a tooth sensitive to cold, exposed roots can sometimes be to blame too. This might surprise you, but if you brush your teeth too hard you can actually pull the gum away from the base of the tooth, creating a little pocket that exposes the root. Nighttime teeth grinding due to stress can also be a result in root exposure, says the ADA. If you're experiencing dull headaches or a sore jawbone, you might want to talk to your dentist about a mouth guard.

Sensitivity to Hot

When your teeth are sensitive to hot beverages, it is likely a result of eroded enamel. Cracked teeth, cavities, and even weak fillings can also allow that hot sip of cocoa direct access to your nerve endings causing pain. Likewise, receding gums can also a common factor. When the gums recede, they expose the dentin and sometimes even the root below the gumline. Ouch! Plaque and tartar buildup at the base of the tooth can irritate the gums and cause recession over time. Even though it's important to remove plaque, overly aggressive brushing and flossing can damage the gum tissue. Genetics and hormones can also cause gum irritation and recession, notes the American Dental Association

Finding Relief

In order to heal a tooth sensitive to cold or hot temperatures, you need to reverse enamel and cementum erosion and be gentle on your gums. Remember, you want to keep the dentin and those roots covered so foods and drinks aren't reaching the nerves. Establish a solid at-home regimen to gently remove plaque while building up the enamel. Fluoride strengthens the tissues on your teeth by hardening the minerals that your saliva redeposits onto them throughout the day. Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, like Colgate® Enamel Health™ Sensitive Teeth Toothpaste. Don't forget to go easy! Use a soft toothbrush that polishes without pushing the gumline away from the base of the tooth.

You can find relief for a tooth sensitive to cold foods or hot beverages and even reverse the problem. Take steps to strengthen your enamel and be gentle on your gums to keep your roots and nerves protected.