As a Canadian citizen and winter sports enthusiast, I know cold weather! As a global oral health care expert and educator, I know that cold winter temperatures can affect the mouth, teeth and gums, so be prepared! You can’t put a heavy coat on your mouth to keep it warm and protected from the elements, but if you live, work or enjoy winter sports and travel in cold climates, preventative care is the goal. Check out my CHECKLIST FOR WINTERIZED TEETH AND GUMS.
SOS FOR SENSITIVE TEETH. Cold air make your teeth feel ouch? Your teeth could simply be sensitive to cold weather, or you might have a hairline crack in a tooth, or enamel which is either thin or weakened. Other reasons for cold weather sensitivity are gum recession, rigorous brushing, infection, gingivitis or gum disease, and clenching or grinding teeth. REGULAR CHECK UPS ARE A MUST and if a problem persists, see your oral health care provider.
TOOTHPASTE 411. If you experience tooth discomfort or pain after rapid temperature changes, try a different toothpaste. Brush with a soft bristled toothbrush, and try potassium or calcium based desensitizing toothpastes to help reduce sensitivity. A desensitizing gel may penetrate into the “pores” of the tooth better than a paste. It takes time to desensitize teeth, so give the new toothpaste time to work or be proactive, and start now.
COLD PLAY. When outside, try breathing in and out through your nose as much as possible. Breathing through the mouth brings the cold air directly in contact with your teeth, and the sudden change in temperature can cause tooth discomfort.
TEETH WARMERS. Sipping a warm beverage can keep the teeth from becoming too cold, especially if you are going to be outside for several hours at a time – a morning jog, enjoying winter sports or shoveling snow. Wearing a scarf around your mouth and neck will also help keep the cold air out.
HYDRATE. Drinking H2O will keep your brain, body, teeth and gums healthy, providing necessary extra moisture. It’s not just cold winter air that steals moisture from your mouth, but hot air heat as well. By drinking enough water, the mouth produces more saliva which is the mouth’s natural cleanser. Without enough saliva, bacteria can build up causing infections and other health risks.
EAT RIGHT. A healthy diet builds a healthier body in cold weather. Eat less acidic and sugar-laden foods and drinks, and enjoy colorful fruits and vegetables, nutritious whole grains, lean beef, skinless poultry and fish, legumes like dry beans and peas, nuts and low or fat-fat dairy products such as yogurt or cottage cheese.
CHAPPED LIPS. Moist lips are happy lips! Prevent chapping and cracking at the corners by drinking plenty of water, using a home humidifier, regularly use a lip balm with SPF 15 or higher, and if planning to be outside for hours, Petroleum jelly is an effective and inexpensive way to coat and protect the lips.
COLD SORES. Cold weather exposure can cause viral cold sore breakouts if your resistance is lowered. Use a lip balm with an SPF15 or higher, wash your hands often, hands off your mouth, and don’t kiss anyone when you have an active and open sore. The Mayo Clinic says that canker sores can also be brought on by cold, and acidic and spicy food and drinks. For pain and discomfort, swish a mixture of one teaspoon of salt and a half-cup of warm water to keep sores clean and promote quicker healing.
CHATTERMOUTH. Would you believe a mouth guard in winter?! If you are going to be working or outside in frigid weather for a long period of time, wearing a mouth guard will help prevent you from forcing your teeth together, and keep them from clicking together - chattering from the cold.
So bundle up and stay warm, stay healthy and enjoy all that winter has to offer!