Health,  Q&A

Thermal Stress on Teeth – Why You Should Avoid Mixing Hot and Cold?

This article is a part of our Q&A series in which we give detailed answers to our readers' questions. Have a question? Don't hesitate and send it to us to get a detailed answer!

Teeth are incredibly resilient, but they are not indestructible. Everyday activities such as eating and drinking can sometimes put them under stress, particularly when exposed to extreme temperatures. One common but often overlooked source of stress is thermal stress, which can occur when teeth are exposed to rapid changes in temperature. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at thermal stress on teeth and explore why it’s important to avoid mixing hot and cold.

What is Thermal Stress and How Does Thermal Stress Affect Teeth?

Thermal stress refers to the strain that materials undergo when exposed to changes in temperature. In the context of teeth, it refers to the effect on enamel and dentin when they are exposed to hot and cold temperatures in quick succession.
Teeth are composed of several layers including the enamel, dentin, and pulp. Enamel, the outermost layer, is very hard but can be subject to contraction and expansion with temperature changes. The dentin, which is the layer beneath the enamel, is less dense and more sensitive to temperature changes. When hot and cold substances are consumed in rapid succession, the enamel expands and contracts. This can lead to:

  • Microfractures in the enamel: Over time, the repeated stress can cause tiny cracks in the enamel, which might lead to more serious fractures.
  • Tooth sensitivity: As the enamel wears down or develops microfractures, the underlying dentin is exposed, which is more sensitive to temperature, causing discomfort or pain.
  • Weakening of dental restorations: If you have fillings, crowns, or other dental restorations, the thermal stress can cause them to expand and contract at a different rate than your natural teeth, potentially leading to a weakened structure.

How to Minimize Thermal Stress on Teeth

Having a cup of hot coffee and immediately after taking a sip of cold water, or consuming ice cream followed by a hot beverage, are common examples that can contribute to thermal stress on teeth.

  • Avoid rapid consumption of hot and cold: Try not to consume extremely hot and cold foods or beverages in quick succession. Allow some time for the temperature in your mouth to stabilize.
  • Consume at moderate temperatures: Opt for consuming your beverages at a more moderate temperature.
  • Use a straw for cold drinks: Using a straw can help by directing the liquid towards the back of your mouth, reducing contact with your teeth.
  • Proper oral hygiene: Keeping your teeth strong through proper oral care will make them more resilient to all kinds of stress, including thermal stress.
  • Consult a dentist: If you’re experiencing sensitivity, it’s important to consult your dentist. They might recommend specific toothpaste for sensitive teeth or other treatments. A dentist can provide advice tailored to your oral health and help to spot and address any issues before they become serious.

Bottom Line

While enjoying a hot drink or an ice-cold dessert is one of life’s pleasures, it’s important to be aware of the impact that extreme temperatures can have on your teeth. By understanding the concept of thermal stress and taking steps to minimize its impact, you can help to ensure that your teeth remain healthy and strong for years to come.

This Q&A series article is complete and was published on August 16, 2023, and last updated on August 16, 2023.

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