We’re in the thick of a beautiful but cold Utah winter, and sometimes this time of year brings winter tooth pain. While you might have noticed that one of your kids has a sensitivity to cold slushies or ice cream in the summer months, winter tooth pain can hit even if you’re avoiding ice-cold treats.

Why #1: High Altitude

If your family has been hitting the slopes this winter season and you’ve had complaints of tooth pain while skiing or snowboarding, then the high altitude may be the culprit. When your body reaches high altitudes, the atmospheric pressure can have effects on our bodies, including our teeth. This type of tooth pain is called barodontalgia, or “tooth squeeze”.

Barodontalgia is typically a symptom of an underlying issue that is often dental related (although not exclusively). Possible dental underlying conditions to the pain of tooth squeeze include:

  • cavity
  • damaged filling
  • cracked tooth
  • enamel erosion
  • pulpitis
  • impacted teeth
  • pulp necrosis

To-Dos for Altitude Tooth Pain

If your kids’ winter tooth pain comes on when you hit the slopes, you’ll need to keep them away from hot beverages as well as cold beverages. Extreme temperatures will only exacerbate the pain. Often the pain will ease once a more normal elevation is reached, so you might have to stay off the mountain for a while.\

Give us a call so we can set up an appointment to see your child. We’ll want to rule out the possibilities and isolate the problem so that we can get your kid back to being on the slopes pain-free with your family.

Why #2: Dental Trauma

Sledding, tubing, skiing, and snowboarding are all great ways to spend the winter weekends. However, these sports can also result in dental injuries such as a cracked or chipped tooth that will result in winter tooth pain.

To-Dos for Dental Trauma

If your child gets a chipped or cracked tooth in a sports accident, give us a call right away. Place the tooth fragment (if you can find it) in a container with milk until you can get in to see us. For more information read our in-depth post, “My Child Chipped a Tooth: What Should I Do?

Why #3: Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity to cold beverages and treats may be annoying or painful in the warm months, but it can be aggravated in the winter months when your teeth are exposed to cold air. Tooth sensitivity is often painful but, as is the often case with barodontalgia, it is typically a symptom of another issue: enamel erosion or root exposure.

The crown of your tooth is covered by a protective layer of enamel. The enamel is the pearly-white part that you see when you smile, and while it is a protector, it can be weakened and eroded. Causes of enamel erosion include:

  • teeth grinding
  • excessive teeth whitening
  • acid reflux disease
  • excessive acidic content in your diet
  • bulimia (stomach acid from frequent vomiting)
  • overzealous teeth brushing technique

What you may be surprised to learn is that the root of your tooth does not have enamel. Instead, it is covered by cementum which is softer than enamel and serves as connective tissue to keep the tooth rooted in your jaw. The root of your tooth simply does not have the same protection in place that the crown of your tooth and this is why an exposed root is painful. Causes of root exposure include:

  • aggressive teeth brushing
  • use of a hard bristle toothbrush
  • receding gums
  • gingivitis (gum disease)
  • dental trauma
  • dry mouth

To-Dos for Tooth Sensitivity

  • For tooth sensitivity, it’s important to get your kids in to see their pediatric dentist to identify the cause and begin the appropriate dental treatment. Some treatments are mild, while others may be more involved.
  • We may recommend a special desensitizing toothpaste to help with the pain while we determine the cause and appropriate treatment.
  • We may do fluoride treatments in the office or prescribe fluoride treatments at home. Fluoride treatments will help to strengthen the tooth’s enamel.
  • We may do a bonding. Bonding in this instance is when we apply our composite resin over an exposed root area.
  • We may recommend a root canal. We perform root canals in our office when necessary. They treat the pulp of the tooth and are one of the most successful treatments for addressing tooth sensitivity.
  • We may refer your child for a surgical gum graft. This procedure is done when the root is exposed because gum tissue has been lost in some way.

There are things that you as the parent can do in this situation as well. If your kids are 12 years or older, consider purchasing Sensodyne toothpaste (ADA approved) to help with the pain of sensitivity. Avoid extreme temperature beverages hot or cold, but also consider eliminating sodas and high sugar juices from their daily intake.

Next, take a look at your kid’s toothbrush. Is it a soft bristle brush? If not, replace it with a soft one. Take note of your child’s brushing technique, are they a hard or aggressive brusher? Proper teeth brushing technique should look like this:

Prevention of Reoccurrence of Tooth Sensitivity

  • Proper brushing technique, two times a day for two minutes. Regular cleaning of the teeth will help keep the enamel strong.
  • Use mouth guards for any sports activities, or if your child grinds their teeth at night. Read our in-depth post, “Why Your Kids Should Use a Mouth Guard“.
  • Eliminate or slide back to a moderate amount of carbonated drinks and citrus fruits in their diet.
  • Finish off a snack or a meal with a drink of water to rinse out any acids or citrus from your teeth.

We know that tooth sensitivity can be painful and frustrating for kids. Don’t wait to see if it simply goes away over time. Give us a call to schedule an appointment so that we can root out (pun intended) the cause of your child’s winter tooth pain and move forward with making it better!