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Why does winter make my teeth hurt?

Everybody dreams of a white Christmas, waking up to the magic of a covering of fresh snow – or at least a convincing coating of festive frost. Unless of course the cold weather sets your teeth on edge. If you suffer from mysterious tooth ache on those cold, clear winter mornings you are not alone – many others also experience it. The good news is, it is a real phenomenon and not just your imagination. So why is it that that the cold winter air causes your teeth to hurt and should you worry? Here’s what the experts have to say.

Internal vs external temperatures

The human body has an incredibly effective built-in temperature control system. It ensures vital organs and systems are kept at a perfect 37 degrees celsius for almost 99% of the time. We only really notice a change in our body temperature when something is wrong – most often when we have a fever. For the majority of our waking and sleeping hours, our teeth happily enjoy the comfort of our natural body temperature, surrounded by a protective layer of saliva. If you suddenly shock them by eating an ice-cream or sipping a scalding hot tea or coffee, though, they may suddenly begin to hurt. Breathing in a mouthful of cold autumn air is exactly the same. Luckily, the effect is usually temporary and doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything to worry about. It is simply the sudden sharp change in temperature having an effect on your nerves.


A particularly problematic area at this time of year is large gaps that have been caused by missing teeth. A missing tooth can leave the inside edges of the teeth around it exposed to low temperatures. In addition, large metal fillings can become very cold and affect the surrounding tooth in a similar way. There are many options for replacing missing teeth, with dental implants often proving to be an effective and reliable solution.

Damaged teeth

Although anybody can experience sudden, short-term tooth pain when exposed to winter weather, the discomfort can be much more extreme if you have underlying defects. Common problems include damaged fillings, which allow the inner tooth to be exposed to cold air, defective crowns or bridges, which leave sensitive parts of the tooth exposed or cracks in the teeth. If you are experiencing frequent or persistent tooth pain when the weather is cold, it is advisable to book a dental check-up.

Gum disease

As well as physical damage to the teeth, oral health issues affecting both teeth and gums can also increase seasonal tooth pain. Periodontal disease can lead to recessed gums, which leave the sensitive base of the teeth exposed. This can be particularly problematic if it affects your front teeth which often have direct exposure to cold air. Other infections of the teeth and gums will also exaggerate the effects of low temperatures, as will even relatively small cavities in the teeth. Teeth are naturally porous, so any surface damage can cause high levels of pain as cold air is able to penetrate to the more sensitive layers. Again, if you experience such symptoms, we’d recommend consulting your dentist who may recommend a check up.

When to see your dentist

Discomfort or pain in your teeth when going outside in cold weather could be a sign that your teeth and gums are in need of attention. Even if you are prone to sensitive teeth, do not assume that it is simply the cold and nothing more. A proactive approach is by far the best way to make sure that you keep your teeth and smile in the best possible condition and avoid future problems – so get in touch with your dentist and book a check up sooner rather than later.

Here at Adrian Mullish Dental Care, we’d like all of our patients to enjoy the festive season with a smile on their face. If you have any questions or concerns about your teeth or would like to book an appointment now, call us today on 01923 231861.


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