Ice cream, frozen yogurt, popsicles, frozen margaritas and lemonade conjure up images of cool treats on hot summer days. But, just taking a spoonful of ice cream or a sip of cold lemonade can be a painful experience for people with sensitive teeth, reports the Academy of General Dentistry, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing education. “Experiencing extreme temperature conditions from food or beverages can manifest as dental pain,” says Charles H. Perle, DMD, FAGD. Tooth sensitivity is caused by the stimulation of cells within tiny microscopic tubes located in the layer of tissue found beneath the hard enamel that contains the inner pulp.
When the hard enamel is worn down or gums have receded – causing the tiny tubes to be exposed – pain can be caused by eating or drinking food, beverages or sweets that are hot or cold; touching teeth; or exposing to air.
Hot and cold temperatures changes also can cause teeth to expand and contract. Over time, teeth can develop microscopic cracks that allow the sensation to seep through to the nerves. Exposed areas of the tooth can cause pain and even affect or change eating, drinking and breathing habits. “Sometimes a tooth with symptoms of sensitivity to cold and biting pressure indicates ‘cracked tooth syndrome'”, says Dr. Perle. Sometimes fracture lines in the teeth are visible, but, most of the time, they are not visible on a x-ray. Even if testing does not reveal the presence of a crack, the symptoms of cold and pressure sensitivity are usually a good indication that a problem is present.
What causes “ice cream headache”?
The intense stabbing headache-like pain, also known as “brain freeze”, that happens after eating something cold, affects about 30 percent of the population. One theory places the headache source in the sinuses. The reaction may be caused by rapid cooling of air in the frontal sinuses. Another theory states that blood vessels in the mouth overburden pain receptors, and then the pain is referred to the head.