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What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? Chocolate? Strawberry? Pistachio? Rocky road? Almost everyone loves ice cream, but eating it can bring on pain in the form of the dreaded ice cream headache! For individuals whose teeth are already particularly sensitive to cold, ice cream headaches may seem like they emanate from your overly sensitive chompers, but your Overland Park dentist is here to tell you that probably isn’t the case.
So what is an ice cream headache? Some people call it a “brain freeze,” and you may be surprised to learn that it actually has a scientific name that is, itself, a mouthful: sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, named for the sphenopalatine ganglion, a group of nerve cells that are linked to headaches. According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School, ice cream headaches probably happen when something cold moves across the roof of your mouth and the back of your throat too quickly, leading to a constriction of the blood vessels near your brain. This results as a sudden, intense pain that quickly subsides once the temperature returns to normal. Hence, “brain freeze.”
Of course, while ice cream is pretty awesome all year round (as long as you enjoy it in moderation and make sure you always brush afterward), ice cream headaches are most common during the hot summer months. For most people, ice cream headaches are extremely painful but also usually very brief. However, “brain freeze” can trigger more extreme reactions in some migraine sufferers.
Cold foods can also cause a lot of pain for individuals who suffer from “dentin hypersensitivity” or sensitive teeth. Sensitive teeth are the result of something wearing away the enamel of your tooth and exposing the nerves below. While pain in sensitive teeth can be triggered by a range of different things, including foods that are particularly hot or cold, the pain that a sufferer of sensitive teeth experiences when eating ice cream, popsicles, or even cold drinks is different from the pain of an ice cream headache, and there’s little evidence that the two reactions are linked.
Fortunately, you have options when it comes to dealing with the pain of either sensitive teeth or ice cream headaches so that you can still enjoy a frozen treat on a hot summer day. The best way to avoid an ice cream headache is to eat slowly and take small bites, giving your mouth a little time to adjust between each one. When it comes to sensitive teeth, you can help alleviate symptoms by switching to a toothpaste designed specifically for sensitive teeth. The best thing to do, though, is to keep up a good routine of daily brushing and flossing and make regular visits to your Overland Park dentist!
We may not be able to do much about ice cream headaches, but if sensitive teeth are preventing you from enjoying your favorite ice cream this summer, just call Watts Family Dental at (913) 338-3384 to schedule an appointment today!