With pumpkin spice latte (PSL) season in full swing, we don’t want hot and cold sensitivity holding you back from enjoying your favorite drinks! There can be multiple factors for thermal sensitivity, but today, let’s talk about stress as the root cause.

During a routine exam, one of my patients recently complained about a new sensitivity to cold drinks. Her home care was excellent, but I discovered gum recession and small notches at the gumline.

Her tooth’s cementum, the part that protects and covers the root, was broken down and exposed. I asked about new stressors that may cause her to clench or grind her teeth. She shared that, yes, working from home was causing a lot of stress.

Clenching her teeth unknowingly had likely introduced a common issue called “stress-related bruxism.” Teeth can withstand only a certain amount of pressure before gums recede and a microscopic breakdown of teeth, called “abfraction,” lets fluid move near the nerves. This ignites nerve endings, inciting a painful sensation.

We were getting closer to an iced PSL!

I used a brief, pain-free procedure similar to a filling to restore the exposed, broken-down areas of the teeth and applied desensitizing agents. I recommended a high-concentration fluoride toothpaste to strengthen the broken-down areas, and I encouraged her to stay aware of clenching habits and to use relaxation techniques to help with the stress.

Sip, sip hooray! When she arrived to her follow-up appointment a few weeks later, we were thrilled to hear that the tooth was no longer sensitive to hot or cold and she was working on lowering stress; an iced PSL no longer caused pain!

My patient experienced cold sensitivity, but other symptoms associated with teeth clenching include general soreness upon waking up in the morning, clicking and popping sounds in the jaw, and notches at the gumline.

If you are in any type of oral discomfort, call a dentist. The solution is often something simple, but transformative!

Sydney Caskey, DDS is a dentist in practice with ROC Dental Group in Bluffton.