Of late, Boreas the god of the north wind has not been kind to us. His arctic vortex has more than reminded us of why we calculate a wind chill.
While huddled around my fire keeping my chattering teeth from fracturing (this is why we make mouthguards) I started to reflect on teeth and temperature.
Teeth are essentially a nerve and blood vessels stuck in a closed tube. They have not been endowed with more than two responses to anything – nothing and ouch!
Generally, cold drives most teeth to momentary distraction. If the tube has lost some of its protective outer coating of enamel or cementum, especially from the root surface, the underlying microtubes are exposed. The dentin is made of thousands of microtubules.
The fluid inside these tubules moves when exposed to temperature variations. This stimulates the nerve endings that project into these tubules from the pulp chamber and they respond with their characteristic ‘ouch’.
They are many solutions from desensitizing toothpastes to sealants. Not all of them work for all people.
Teeth that respond very dramatically to cold usually have something more wrong with them. Generally, the pulp is not well. On occasion, they can be settled if the problem relates to bruxing (grinding and or clenching) or to cavities, small cracks and trauma.
Many times the pulp will not recover and the dreaded “R” word – root canal therapy, comes into play. If a pulp is very heat sensitive, where cold settles it momentarily, then root canal is a given.
Ultimately, teeth can be temperature sensitive for many reasons. So if yours are while breathing in this frosty air, then see your dentist.