You might not like it, but winter is coming and, with it, so is the colder weather. When you think of the cold, you think about the effects it has on your body – causing you to shiver and making your fingers and toes numb.
But did you know that the cold weather can also have an effect on your oral health?
When you’re cold, you shiver. You also tense your muscles in an attempt to stay warm. When your muscles tense, you also clench your teeth. This clenching wears away at the enamel of your teeth, exposing the dentin underneath and increasing your risk of tooth decay.
Clenching your teeth also has an effect on your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This joint is where your upper and lower jaws meet and gives you the ability to open your mouth, move your lower jaw from side to side, as well as eat and speak. Clenching can irritate and cause inflammation of the joint, leading to pain and difficulty doing these tasks, a condition known as temporomandibular disorder, or TMD.
When you inhale the icy air, you may feel a sharp pain. What you are experiencing is tooth sensitivity. This sensitivity can be due to micro-fractures in the tooth, weak enamel or gum recession. Sensitivity may also be the result of clenching. The exposed dentin houses hollow channels that lead to the roots of your teeth, giving the brisk air direct contact with the nerves, which causes the pain.
What You Can Do
You can protect your teeth from the cold weather. Stay warm. If you have to go outside, bundle up. Wear a coat with a high collar to cover your jaw and wrap a scarf around the lower portion of your face, covering your mouth and nose. If possible, breathe through your nose.
Dental hygiene is also extremely important to keeping your teeth healthy. Brush at least twice a day and floss. If your teeth are sensitive, invest in a toothpaste designed to help with sensitivity. And make sure you see your dentist regularly.
The cold weather doesn’t have to make you miserable. If you are concerned about the health of your teeth, contact our office before the chill sets in and learn what you can do to keep them protected this and each winter.