Toothache: Caused by the Cold or a Dental Emergency?

My wife and I are having a debate about whether my toothache constitutesas a dental emergency or not. I say “not,” but she insists that I go getseen. Basically, what’s happening is that my tooth started acting up aboutthree days ago. At first, I was worried, but I also noticed it coincided withthe cold snap we are having. I do a lot of work outside and it actually startedup while I was shoveling snow. She thinks that’s a coincidence, I don’t. Itdoesn’t hurt all the time, but I do have a general achiness that spreads out acrossa few teeth on my upper left. One of them already has a crown, ifthat matters. It isn’t bad and it isn’t getting worse. I wouldn’t mind going inand having it checked out, but it seems like it would be a waste of time if it issomehow related to the cold weather. Is it possible that’s all it is?

Thank you,


Dear Frank,

The good news is, you’re right. The bad news is, so is she.

It’s basic science that things expand and contract based onthe temperatures around them. Your teeth do the same. We are talking about veryminor changes here that are not visible to the human eye, but they do existnone-the-less. With your natural teeth, it could be that the enamel isexpanding or contracting at a different rate than the pulp of the tooth. Morethan likely, it’s actually your crown that is behaving differently than thenatural tooth below it though.

You might notice this more during a big cold snap or whenyou go outside. People who breathe through their mouths and pull the cold airpast their teeth tend to have more trouble. Given that it’s cold and flu seasonand there’s a whole lot of stuffiness about, that can add to it.

So now that we’ve established you could be right, what abouther? The other catch is that teeth with damage can be more responsive too. Ifyou’ve got untreated decay or issues brewing under your crown, you’re far morelikely to have issues. If left untreated, the problem will grow, which couldleave you in serious pain or result in the need for more intensive treatment.

Just having an “awareness” of a tooth doesn’t necessarilymean it has a problem that needs treatment, but if you leave it and there is aproblem, then there are consequences of that. Unless there are signs of aninfection, you probably could get away with monitoring it rather than bookingan emergency dental appointment. However, given that this could also be anearly warning sign of trouble, it’s best to go in and have it checked out justto be safe.

This blog is sponsored by Dr. Steve Sirin. Dr. Sirin’s Elgin dental office offers same-day emergencyappointments.

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