Are you suffering with sensitive teeth this summer?
It’s not often that Brits get to bask in a true summer season at home on the motherland. As a nation we are obsessed with discussing the weather, mainly it’s unpredictability. While many of our European neighbours enjoy a clearly defined, 4 season year, we are used to a random short snap of snow in Spring and on occasion a late Indian summer running into September and October. In fact, it’s not uncommon to enjoy all 4 seasons in one day!
It’s a quintessentially British pastime to chit-chat about the climate, pondering whether summer will ever arrive. Consequently, when summer does bless us with its presence, we are ready to embrace it with complete gusto! Picnics in the park, days at the seaside garden BBQ’s, paddling pools, the chimes of the ice-cream van, all tell us that summer has arrived. We try to cram as much into the sunny window of opportunity as we can and never more so than in 2021 when foreign travel to warmer climes is looking increasingly unlikely.
Despite our enthusiasm for hot, sticky summers there are usually a few niggles that dampen our highly anticipated summer spirits. Sunburn, lack of air-conditioning, wasps, excessive sweating and pesky mozzies are just a few of the annoying eventualities that inevitably rear their heads. Have you also noticed that you are also suddenly experiencing sensitive teeth? Funnily enough, you aren’t the only one.
What has summer got to do with sensitive teeth?
You may not have ever associated these two things together, but summer can result in a heightened level of tooth sensitivity. Dentistry Online report that ‘for up to 42% of the UK’s population, summer very often means increased tooth pain, according to a Millward Brown tracking study.’
We go to some lengths to protect our bodies from the summer heat. We shield our eyes with sunglasses. We apply lashings of sun cream and douse ourselves in insect repellant for the sake of our skin. There are countless gadgets and gizmos to provide shade and cooling solutions, but strangely enough, no-one thinks of how to prepare our teeth for the change in season.
Of course, sensitive teeth or Dentine Hypersensitivity as its known medically can occur at any time of the year and for multiple reasons. You may just need to be mindful that the glorious summer days may be exacerbating an underlying problem. Don’t let your summer be ruined by tooth pain. Find out how to avoid tooth sensitivity so that you can enjoy the next few months to your heart’s content.
What causes sensitive teeth?
You will suffer sensitivity or discomfort in the teeth, if the enamel exterior starts to erode, causing exposure to the nerve endings contained within the soft dentin layer beneath. Whilst this is the cause of the problem, there could be a variety of reasons why it has happened.
It could be due to your gums receding with gingivitis, opening up more tooth surfaces to attack. In other cases, there might be a localised sensitivity due to a cavity or crack in the tooth enamel, possibly due to decay, sometimes an accident or trauma and maybe even as a consequence of overzealous brushing!
Either way, even though the causes may vary, the sensitivity you detect is because the strong enamel shell is no longer providing protection to the delicate interior of the tooth. This leaves those sensitive nerve endings open to all influences and as a result that sharp wincing nerve pain.
Our tooth enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body and the first line of defence against attack from bacteria. If you have suddenly found yourself suffering from sensitive teeth this summer, it will be due to a weakness that has emerged. You need to look at how your eating, drinking and hygiene habits might have recently changed in the hot weather to get to the root(?!) of your sensitive teeth problem.
Tooth Sensitivity to Cold
The reason why you may suddenly be aware of tooth sensitivity this summer is whilst the enamel may have been eroding away slowly in the background it’s only now in your pursuit of all things cold that the nerves have been hit with a shock.
Ice-lollies, crisp fresh salads, frozen cocktails and ice-cold drinks can all hit your enamel weak spot, giving you a flash of agonising toothache. The pain may quickly subside once the coldness has passed but in the height of summer, you will be hit time and time again as your desire for icy drinks increases 10-fold.
Even if there was no underlying damage to the enamel, the sudden temperature change that is introduced by biting or drinking something cold, can deliver a thermal shock to the teeth causing the enamel to crack. This is much less likely at any other time of year when you are more likely to crave something warm and comforting.
If there’s one thing worse than stabbing tooth pain, its brain freeze. Brain freeze or Ice-Cream head as some know it is often forgotten about as it only really affects us once in a blue moon. Just as you are tucking into that delicious cornetto or refreshing slushie, a sudden excruciating headache hits you like a ton of bricks. The pain is intense, but thankfully short-lived.
Recent scientific research suggests that cold tooth sensitivity and brain freeze are connected and that those with dental decay are probably more prone to this summertime affliction. There are some hygiene practices and products that may stop the dental decay from developing but ultimately you need to address the point of weakness with your dentist so your sour-faced wincing doesn’t blight the rest of your summer.
Tooth Sensitivity to Sweetness
Hand in hand with cooling summery food and drinks is sweetness. Ice-cream, cold coffee, fruits, fizzy drinks and alcohol are loaded with sugar but are the thing we crave most to help cool down.
What’s better on a hot summer’s day than a nice refreshing jug of Pimms? Unfortunately for your teeth, it’s a tricky concoction. Sugary alcohol, that bacteria love. Acidic fruits that contribute to enamel erosion and hunks of ice for the final blow. You may feel like you are being healthy by increasing your fruit and salad intake and of course this has huge benefits for the body, but just think about how this blend of cold sweetness may affecting your teeth.
With this uptake in sweety treats, it’s no great surprise that you could be suffering from a new cavity. Until that hole is dealt with, it will continue you bug you all summer long.
When you think of how you eat and drink during the summer vs the rest of the year, it’s no wonder that sensitivity flares up during the warmer months.
What to do to avoid sensitive teeth this summer?
To avoid a summer of pain and costly tooth restoration treatment this autumn, try to follow a few simple steps:
- Switch to a toothpaste and mouthwash that are suitable for sensitive teeth
- Do not brush your teeth directly after eating sweet or acidic food
- Drink or rinse your mouth with water to keep bacteria from settling
- Chew sugar free gum to encourage salivation
- Don’t go overboard with sugary treats and alcohol
- Do not crunch on ice!
- Stay hydrated to avoid bacteria growth in the mouth
- Avoid home whitening kits
- Book a checkup with your hygienist
These are all great prevention measures to avoid tooth sensitivity, but if the pain has already set in, it’s time to explore options to restore protection to exposed nerves.
A simple filling or composite will offer solutions for holes and cavities. A treatment for gingivitis will reduce the chances of suffering due to receding gum lines. A good clean will flush away any build up of bacteria, plaque and tartare to give your teeth a fighting chance of avoiding decay.
There are many options to tackle sensitive teeth. Don’t let summer get on your nerves (literally.) Visit your dentist for solutions so you can enjoy this blissful season free from pain.