If you have felt a sharp pain or a dull ache in your teeth when you eat something cold like ice cream, then you may have a tooth sensitive to cold.
Experiencing pain or discomfort like this when eating or drinking some of your favorite treats can be really upsetting and even get in the way of everyday life, but it doesn't have to.
So what causes your teeth to feel sensitive to cold and what can you do about it? We discuss reasons you might have a tooth sensitive to cold and answer the following questions:
- Why are my teeth sensitive to cold?
- Is it normal to have a tooth sensitive to cold after a filling?
- What remedies are there for treating sensitivity to cold?
- Can you get treated professionally for sensitive teeth?
Let’s start with the reason your teeth may be sensitive to cold drinks and food, so you can find a suitable remedy or treatment.
And if you've got the opposite problem, you can read about why your teeth are sensitive to heat in our separate guide.
Table of contents
Why are your teeth sensitive to cold?
You might have teeth sensitive to cold for many reasons, all of which allow triggers to permeate the protective enamel layer of your teeth and irritate the sensitive areas beneath.
Triggers are things like hot or cold foods, such as coffee or ice cream, or acidic, sugary, or intensely flavored foods and drinks. Teeth whitening treatments can also trigger teeth sensitivity because you are applying something acidic (peroxides) to your teeth.
This study found that cold drinks were one of the most common triggers for sensitive teeth and that the first molars and premolars were most commonly affected.
The reason that cold and other triggers can permeate the protective enamel layer is that it is compromised somehow. Here are a few reasons your teeth and gums may be compromised and causing teeth sensitivity:
- Worn or thinning enamel
- Tooth decay and cavities
- Brushing your teeth too hard
- A damaged or old filling
- Teeth sensitive after filling
- Recent dental work
- Teeth whitening treatments
- Gum disease which is causing receding gums exposing tooth roots (which have no enamel layer)
- Age-related gum disease
- Teeth grinding that is wearing down or causing micro-fractures in your enamel
- Ill-fitting crown or onlay
- Sensitive teeth after cleaning at the dentist
So what can you do to help with these problems? Maintaining a good oral hygiene routine is a start, but let's jump in with what else you can do.
What can you do about a tooth sensitive to cold?
As mentioned above, the first step is to maintain a good oral hygiene routine. This includes brushing properly and flossing your teeth the recommended twice a day.
Use a sensitive toothbrush when brushing your teeth. This can be a manual toothbrush or an electric one. Either way, make sure it has soft, gentle bristles.
If an electric toothbrush is an option for you, then look for one with pressure sensors and a timer. This will let you know if you are brushing too hard or for too long. These types of electric toothbrushes will usually have specific settings for sensitive teeth.
You can use sensitive toothpaste specifically designed to help with teeth that are sensitive. These types of toothpaste will contain fluoride or other ingredients to help remineralize your enamel and desensitize your teeth.
Other products such as sensitive mouthwash and serums can also help tackle sensitive teeth and protect against triggers such as cold and hot food and drinks. If you have tried out a lot of different remedies and products, then it may be time to consult your dentist.
It’s also important to note that if the pain is intense or unbearable, or lasts for weeks at a time, you should definitely make a dental appointment. Maybe you have an underlying issue that needs addressing.
What treatments are available for teeth sensitive to cold?
If you are struggling with teeth sensitive to cold and have tried all the products available on the market with no luck, then your dentist should be able to help. Depending on the cause of your sensitive teeth, your dentist will choose a suitable treatment.
This may include prescription high-fluoride toothpaste or fluoride varnish. Or maybe you need a root canal or restorative treatment such as a crown to help protect a damaged tooth.
Whatever your dentist suggests, make sure you still try to maintain a good oral hygiene routine alongside treatment.
If you have a tooth sensitive to cold, don’t worry, there are plenty of products out there to help you tackle the problem. Avoiding cold foods and drinks in the meantime can help you avoid pain, but it’s not a long-term solution.
You can try using toothpaste and mouthwashes designed specifically for treating sensitive teeth. Ones that help to strengthen and remineralize enamel will also help to protect the sensitive layers of your teeth better.
Ideally, having a good oral hygiene routine and adding in products that help treat sensitivity would be enough. However, sometimes, you may need to discuss alternative options with your dentist. You might have underlying dental issues that need to be resolved.
We also have an article that may help if you have a tooth sensitive to air.
NCBI. A cross-sectional study of buccal cervical sensitivity in UK general dental practice and a summary review of prevalence studies. Consulted 15th April 2022.
Oral Health Foundation. Sensitive teeth. Consulted 15th April 2022.