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Why Are My Gums Sensitive to Cold?

Learn what can cause gum sensitivity

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All of us have some amount of sensitivity to cold food or beverages, but if the pain becomes too unbearable to enjoy the occasional iced tea or ice cream, it’s important to assess the underlying reasons for the sensitivity and find a way to treat it. The main function of the nerves in our gums and teeth is to help our bodies understand if something is hot or cold. This means that some sensitivity is normal.

Extreme gum sensitivity, however, may mean there is a more serious medical issue at hand.

Causes of Gum Sensitivity

woman in pain from eating icecream

Gum sensitivity can be caused by serious oral conditions, but sometimes it can be caused by something minor that you ate or drank.

Oral Infections

Oral infections or infected gums can create extra sensitivity in the nerves of the mouth. When plaque accumulates surrounding the gums it can lead to temperature sensitivity from infections such as:

  • Gingivitus
  • Gum disease
  • Periodontitus

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress can release cortisol from built-up tension, which can further inflame gums. As gums become inflamed from all of the tension, the bacteria are able to grow more quickly and create sensitive gums that are unable to handle the hot and cold.

Vitamin Deficiencies

Not getting enough of the right vitamins and nutrients can cause a host of health problems. Vitamin C, in particular, helps skin heal after bruising, joint pain, and mobility as well as helps improve our immune systems’ ability to fight off serious infections. Lack of vitamin C can also cause swollen and sensitive gums.


Hormonal shifts are normal for both men and women. However, for women going through pregnancy, menopause, or menstruation, the gums can have increased blood flow that makes them more sensitive to outside changes. Gum sensitivity caused by changes in hormones is normal and nothing to be concerned about. If the sensitivity persists or is extreme, you should mention it to your dentist.

Food Irritation

Acidic foods or extremely cold foods can irritate the nerves in our gums. Our mouths tend to naturally prefer foods or drinks at room temperature that don’t create any tension in our oral cavities. You can still enjoy cold foods or drinks on occasion but if the pain becomes unmanageable, be sure to check with a dentist to be sure there isn’t a more serious issue.

Tobacco Products

Smoking or chewing tobacco can irritate the gums. If you frequently smoke or chew these products it will make it harder to adjust to temperature changes with food and drinks. Tobacco usage can also lead to other serious health problems such as lung cancer or oral cancer.

Brushing or Flossing Too Hard

While brushing and flossing teeth is necessary for gum health, be sure to brush and floss gently so as not to irritate the nerves in your gums. The more irritation created from the excess force while brushing will make it harder for your gums to tolerate cold products.

How To Treat Gum Sensitivity

dentist smiling

Gum sensitivity can be bothersome and even painful. It’s important to treat the cause of your sensitivity so that you can fully enjoy a range of foods and beverages, even the hot and the cold. The treatment that will work best for you depends on the root cause of your individual sensitivity.

Antiseptic Mouthwash

When bad bacteria is left uncleaned in the mouth it can continue to grow and irritate the gums. An antiseptic mouthwash will help soothe your gums so they can tolerate colder foods.

OTC Painkillers

Over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or Tylenol can ease gum pain and sensitivity. Ibuprofen in particular acts as a blood thinner that can reduce inflammation all throughout the body.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated not only helps the health of your whole body, but it can also strengthen your oral health by flushing down excess food and drink from your mouth after a meal. Doing this helps reduce bacteria buildup until you are able to properly brush and floss your teeth.

Get Regular Dental Cleanings

Along with trying some at-home care for your sensitive gums, make sure to get regular dental cleanings. These cleanings can keep your teeth and gums more resilient to temperature changes by cleansing all of your oral cavities,

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Dr. Standish has been serving Clay County patients at Eagle Harbor Dental for over 40 years. His daughters Dr. Kelly & Dr. Erin joined the practice and they’ve been creating beautiful smiles as a family ever since. With extensive educations and memberships, our dentists are the best that Fleming Island has to offer.


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