It’s that time of year again when warm weather starts to slip away, and we enter into fall. With the colder weather upon us, you may notice some pain or discomfort in your teeth and eyes. Cold weather can impact your body more than just by making you shiver. Here are some ways that you may notice these changes in your oral and vision health and how you can treat the symptoms.

Woman with tooth pain caused by cold weather

Oral Health

What causes tooth sensitivity?

Teeth are very sensitive, which is why they might hurt while tasting something hot or cold. During these cooler months, that can also happen by breathing in the cold air.

Cold weather makes teeth contract which can create tiny cracks over time exposing the dentin, the layer beneath your enamel. When this is exposed, it leaves the nerves and cells in your tooth subject to sensitivity, which is why you feel pain in your teeth.

Exposed dentin and tooth sensitivity can occur for reasons other than cold weather, too. Teeth can be worn down from brushing too hard, brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush, periodontal disease, clenching and grinding, and more.

Sometimes, weather sensitivity can occur regardless of how well you take care of your teeth, which is why it’s important to go to the dentist two times a year so the professionals can make sure there are no underlying issues.

Relieving the pain

First, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your dentist to find the cause of the problem and come up with a treatment plan. Sometimes a quick look inside your mouth or a new set of X-rays will help them find the problem.

In some cases, switching to a sensitive toothpaste or a fluoride application is enough to stop the pain.

Other times, the pain could mean something more serious. If this is the case, your dentist may need to perform a pulp vitality test to check the health of your teeth and see how your teeth respond to temperature change and pressure. A dentist may also suggest a crown, inlay or bonding, a surgical gum graft, a cavity filling, or a root canal.

To mend the discomfort before you get to the dentist, try breathing through your nose instead of your mouth when outside. Continue to brush and floss daily but use a soft-bristled toothbrush with little pressure. Also try to avoid whitening treatments and acidic foods, as they can increase sensitivity.

If you’re experiencing any tooth pain, use this tool to schedule an appointment with a dentist near you.

Vision Health

Cold weather can damage your eyes as well as your teeth if you don’t take proper precautions. It’s easy to add extra layers to protect body parts like your hands, head, and feet, but it can be more difficult to do the same for your eyes. Without some protection, cold weather can dry out your eyes and even cause vision problems. Below are some common eye conditions caused by cold weather.

Dry eyes – Winter weather exposes us to low humidity, dry air, and harsh winds which can cause the moisture in your eyes to evaporate. Symptoms that come along with dry eyes are itchiness, red eyes, or irritation that can get worse with the colder weather. The American Optometric Association suggests frequent lubrication with artificial tears to alleviate the dryness or perform daily “lid scrubs” by wrapping a warm washcloth around your finger and rubbing it at the baseline of your lashes for about 20 seconds.

Excessive Tearing – Cold, windy air can also cause your eyes to overproduce tears to protect from the harsh winds. Excessive tears may lead to blurry vision. To avoid this, try putting in artificial tears prior to going outside to create a small “barrier.”

Contact Lenses Discomfort – Those who wear contacts should protect their eyes from wind and cold, but they should also be aware of potential discomfort from hot, indoor air blowing into their eyes. Hot air may make contact lenses feel drier, scratchier, and can create vision instability. Humidifiers can help improve comfort and are available in sizes for your house or your car.

UV Protection ­– Even though the days are getting darker earlier, reflections from snow and ice can dramatically increase the light around you, meaning increased UV exposure that you need protection from. Sunglasses or goggles are recommended whenever you’re outside during the winter since ultraviolet rays can reach your eyes even on cloudy days. This reflection can lead to a form of light sensitivity called “snow blindness,” a painful condition that impacts the cornea and can last several days.

Here are some other tips to keep your eyes safe during the winter:

  • Make sure you’re drinking enough water in the winter to keep up your overall health and keep your eyes moist.
  • Always wash your hands before touching your eyes to prevent any contagious diseases
  • Meet with your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam since the cold winter weather can aggravate dry eye disease.

It’s always important to take care of your oral and vision health, but it’s especially important to monitor any symptoms during the winter months.

Check out the Delta Dental of Iowa blog for more tips on dental and vision health.

Published on Iowa Healthiest State Initiative on behalf of Delta Dental of Iowa

Read more of Sydney’s blog posts here.

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