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Before shopping for the best toothpaste for sensitive teeth, find out why you have sensitive teeth. The reason can make a big difference in determining whether you should spend time searching for the “right” toothpaste—or whether you need help on a larger scale.
Do You Need the Best Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth?
If you have sensitive teeth, you feel discomfort or pain when you consume something very hot or very cold. It’s not the same knee-weakening stabbing pain you might feel from a severe cavity or broken tooth—that constant knife-grinding in your jaw. And it usually occurs only when you eat or drink the wrong thing. But it can be a sharp and annoying pain.
Without knowing the cause of the pain, however, even the best toothpaste for sensitive teeth may not alleviate your discomfort.
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What Causes Sensitive Teeth
To get to the root of the problem, it helps to understand the anatomy of your choppers.
“Your teeth are composed of four dental tissues,” explains the American Dental Association (ADA). “Three of them—enamel, dentin, and cementum—are hard tissues. The fourth tissue—pulp, or the center of the tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue—is a soft, or non-calcified, tissue.”
Dentin, whose job it is to be protective, is key in sensitivity issues. Dentin contains “microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals),” according to the ADA. “When dentin loses its protective covering (enamel), the tubules allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to stimulate the nerves and cells inside the tooth, causing sensitivity.”
So, not surprisingly, the causes of sensitive teeth all involve something that damages the dentin:
- Acidic foods and beverages, which cause tooth erosion
- Broken teeth
- Brushing too hard
- Chipped/cracked teeth
- Enamel that is weakened or thinned
- Exposed roots
- Fillings that need to be replaced
- GERD (gastroesophageal-reflux disease)
- Gum disease
- Gum recession
- Hard toothbrush
- Harsh, gritty toothpaste
- Loss of tooth enamel
- Overuse of or too harsh of mouthwash
- Plaque buildup
- Teeth grinding
- Temporary sensitivity due to a recent dental procedure
And, sadly, more than one expert we consulted said that the cause of your sensitive teeth may never be known. It might just be naturally thin enamel. If that’s the case, then your search for the best toothpaste for sensitive teeth makes sense.
Either way, though, your first step should be a trip to the dentist, even before spending money on toothpaste for sensitive teeth, which can be pricey. You’ll have to pay for the dentist appointment, of course, but 77 percent of us have dental insurance to cut the cost. If you don’t, be honest with the dentist up front. If there are be less-expensive fixes, he or she will explain them to you.
“Even in situations where there is no obvious cause for your pain, there are numerous treatments to help you manage the sensitivity,” according to information posted at the website of Colgate, a manufacturer of toothpaste for sensitive teeth. “Your dentist can apply an in-office fluoride gel to strengthen the tooth enamel and reduce painful sensations, while over-the-counter desensitizing toothpastes can block off the nerve endings in the exposed dentin.”
In fact, just getting back to proper oral hygiene—the right toothpaste, a soft brush, proper flossing, appropriate non-alcohol mouthwash—can go a long way to easing sensitivity. Your dentist also is a good source for suggestions on what he or she believes is the best toothpaste for sensitive teeth.
Keep “gentle” in mind as you search for the best toothpaste for sensitive teeth. A tartar-control toothpaste with gritty ingredients is not the choice for you.
Sensitive Teeth Toothpaste Choices
One approach to take is trip and error. Choose a toothpaste made specifically for sensitive teeth. Such products avoid irritating agents and may include desensitizing ingredients that protect nerve of the teeth.
Two ingredients you’ll typically find in the best toothpaste for sensitive teeth are fluoride and potassium nitrate.
Potassium nitrate “hyperpolarizes the nerve and stops it from firing. The nerve impulses are thus desensitized and there is no pain,” explains Wikipedia.com.
Fluoride helps maintain your tooth’s enamel strength, rebuilding the minerals in it that may be lost to normal bacteria on your teeth.
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In comparing products, a Business Insider review stated, “The 1,500 PPM concentration of fluoride in Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief Enamel Repair Toothpaste can help restore and reinforce tooth enamel, reducing sensitivity over the long term. In the shorter term, this toothpaste also contains potassium nitrate, which can help relieve sensitivity in just a few weeks by filling the many microscopic channels that connect your tooth’s nerve center to the exterior of the enamel.”
Bustle.com also mentioned potassium nitrate as a strong ingredient choice, naming Sensodyne products as most recommended by the dentists consulted “because they’re formulated with potassium nitrate—which helps soothe the nerve by blocking the neural transmission in the tooth that causes sensitivity—as well as stannous fluoride, which strengthens and protects the tooth structure.”
If you switch to a new sensitive teeth product, don’t expect a miracle overnight. Even tough potassium nitrate is said to offer one of the speediest solutions, it may take weeks or even several months of use before you notice a difference.