Does Cold Water Hurt Your Teeth? Here’s Why

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

There’s nothing worse than trying to eat ice cream on a hot day only to experience tooth pain from the first bite. But why are teeth sometimes sensitive to cold foods, and what can you do if you’re experiencing this unpleasant sensation? 

If you experience cold sensitivity, it may be due to worn-out tooth enamel, a broken tooth, a cavity, or gum disease. Remedies include changing your toothpaste, avoiding teeth whitening products, and removing acidic foods from your diet. If you experience severe pain, you should visit a dentist. 

Let’s explore the main causes of temperature sensitivity, how to distinguish between mild and severe sensitivity, and some treatment options to get your teeth back into shape. 

How to Treat Cold Sensitivity 

Attractive man in pain due to sensitive teeth

The best way to treat cold sensitivity is to avoid anything that may be damaging your teeth. Cold food itself isn’t harmful to your teeth, although you’ll have to change the way you eat it. If you have mild cold sensitivity, you can treat it with home remedies. Otherwise, dental treatments may help. 

Here are some home remedies for cold sensitivity: 

Change Your Toothbrush and Toothpaste 

If you have sensitive teeth, it could be due to vigorous brushing. Try using a softer toothbrush made for sensitive teeth (on Amazon). Also, start using toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth and avoid whitening strips or bleaches as these may damage the tooth enamel. 

Avoid Acidic Foods 

Acidic foods will damage your teeth much faster than other foods as the acid dissolves the protective minerals that make up the enamel. Avoid all fizzy drinks and other acidic foods, and try to keep cold food out of your diet as well. 

Wear a Mouthguard

If you have a habit of grinding your teeth, a mouthguard (on Amazon) will help. You’ll only have to wear it for a few days while you get rid of the habit. The mouthguard will also protect your teeth when drinking cold beverages. 

Why Are Our Teeth Sensitive to the Cold?

If your teeth are sensitive to cold food and drinks, it’s usually because they’re damaged or sensitive. This could be due to rigorous brushing, worn enamel, poor oral hygiene, or a broken tooth. When your teeth are damaged or worn, the underlying nerves become exposed, causing pain. 

Here are some of the common reasons why your teeth have temperature sensitivity: 

Worn-Out Enamel 

The tooth enamel protects the underlying layers, including the dentin and nerves. When the enamel is damaged, you’ll feel slight pain when drinking cold water. 

Vigorous brushing and overusing teeth whitening products can cause your tooth enamel to wear off. While you should brush regularly, avoid overdoing it. Also, avoid using more than one whitening product and stay away from whitening products in general if you have very sensitive teeth. 

Lastly, avoid grinding your teeth as this may also wear away the outer enamel, exposing your teeth’s nerves. 

Tooth Decay 

Sudden sensitivity to cold is often a sign that you have tooth decay. In most cases, a small cavity will cause you to feel pain when drinking cold water. If you have a cavity, it’s often because you aren’t brushing properly or are consuming too many acidic and sugary foods

Problems With Old Fillings 

If you experience pain in teeth that have fillings, it could be that your teeth have worn away around the filling. This will directly expose the nerves and cause you to feel pain when drinking hot or cold drinks. 

Gum Disease 

Gum disease could also cause your teeth to become sensitive to temperature changes. When your gums decay, they may expose the teeth roots, resulting in mild to severe pain. If your gums are painful or have changed color, you should visit a dentist immediately. 

A Broken Tooth 

If you’ve cracked your tooth recently and the broken area hurts every time it’s exposed to cold, you’ll have to visit a dentist immediately for a crown. The pain caused by a broken tooth is often severe, and a broken tooth is considered a dental emergency. 

Recognizing the Type of Pain

While millions of people have tooth sensitivity, not everyone experiences pain the same way. For some people, the pain may be unbearable, and it can last for several minutes. For others, it will be slightly more than a tingling sensation and will only last a few seconds when the tooth has just been exposed to heat or cold. 

If you experience dull pain for no more than a few seconds, it’s usually due to having sensitive teeth. This pain usually starts when you take the first sip of a cold drink and will go away quickly. However, if you experience short, stabbing pain that lasts for more than 30 seconds, it’s a sign that something’s wrong with your teeth. 

If the pain lasts for more than 30 seconds, it could be a sign that you have a cavity, a broken tooth, or worse. While you don’t need to book an emergency appointment, try to see a dentist within a day or two. 

Is Cold Sensitivity Dangerous?

Asian woman feeling teeth pain. Closeup of sad girl suffering from toothache after drinking ice water on white background

Cold sensitivity isn’t always dangerous, but it can be in some cases. Cold sensitivity is a sign that something’s wrong with your teeth or that your teeth aren’t completely healthy. 

In most cases, sensitivity is a sign that the tooth enamel has worn out, which is what causes you to experience pain. Fortunately, the enamel can be repaired by using the right toothpaste consistently. 

However, if the pain lasts for a while, it’s a sign that the nerves are exposed.

So, while cold sensitivity itself isn’t dangerous, if you experience severe pain due to cold sensitivity, it could indicate a dental emergency. 

When to Visit Your Dentist

If you experience mild pain that lasts for a few seconds at most, there’s no need to book an emergency dental appointment. However, if the pain lasts longer than 30 seconds, you should visit a dentist. 

Your dentists will first look for the underlying cause of the problem and resolve it before doing fluoride therapy to strengthen the tooth enamel. Other potential dental treatments include tooth restoration, root canal, and gum grafts. 

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