Posted By: Amanda Banks, RDH
Patients often tell us that they have sensitive teeth. This sensitivity can vary greatly. Sometimes they don’t even notice it except during their cleaning. Sometimes they are only bothered by cold things here and there. Other times, it affects their eating and drinking consistently. You should never let teeth sensitivity alter your lifestyle when it’s often so easy to improve. The first step towards relief is using sensitivity toothpaste, and that’s what we’re talking about today. Not all sensitivity pastes are created equal, especially since so many toothpastes claim to help with everything! So, what should you look for in a sensitivity toothpaste? It all comes down to the active ingredients. Every box of toothpaste has a drug label that lists the active ingredients it contains. Here are the ingredients you should be on the look out for.
Fluoride is great for your teeth! I’ve written about a couple different types of fluoride in other blogs posts, and you can tell I am all for it. However, I do not think that fluoride alone is enough if you have sensitive teeth. Fluoride will help, yes. But it doesn’t seem to give as much relief as other things. Toothpastes can contain various types of fluoride, including stannous fluoride and sodium fluoride. I think these are great adjuncts. If you are at a high risk of developing tooth decay as well as being sensitive, some prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste may help with both issues. The fluoride varnish application you can get after your cleaning is great as well. I have had patients say that fluoride varnish helped their sensitivity for at least a few months afterward. Varnish is great if you want some immediate relief.
This stuff is my go-to for sensitivity! Potassium nitrate is the active ingredient in most Sensodyne brand toothpastes. It relieves sensitivity in a different way than fluoride does, and based on patient response it works very well. I have seen many patients whose sensitivity was bad enough that they thought their tooth was bad and would need a crown or a root canal for it when it turns out all they needed was some special toothpaste! The potassium nitrate can be found in brands other than Sensodyne now, but you have to read the labels to know what you are getting. Many toothpastes will say they help with sensitivity, but will only contain a type of fluoride rather than the potassium nitrate. Sensodyne Pronamel is very popular, in part because it also contains fluoride. I’m a big fan of this stuff!
Okay, this is a big one, so bear with me. Recaldent is the trademarked name for…….casein phosphopeptides and amorphous calcium phosphate (CPP-ACP). Can you see why they gave it a better name? Recaldent is the active ingredient in MI Paste (which I have done a blog post about if you want more info). Like fluoride, it can be great for both sensitivity relief and caries (cavity) prevention, but studies seem to show it being even more effective. It’s not a prescription, but it is only available through a dentist office. It is more expensive than other toothpastes you would buy at the store, so generally only the more severe cases end up with it.
This is one I don’t know as much about. It is the desensitizing agent in the Rapid Relief Sensitive (fluoride-free) toothpaste from Tom’s of Maine. Some patients prefer Tom’s Of Maine paste because it is supposed to contain more natural ingredients, so I felt I should look at what they offer as well. This particular paste of theirs has this arginine bicarbonate, but they have two other sensitivity pastes that actually use the potassium nitrate we talked about already (one with fluoride that is considered the maximum strength relief). Arginine is produced naturally in our bodies, and for the purposes of this toothpaste is derived from sugar-containing plants.
Something to avoid…
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the whitening toothpastes. Whitening toothpastes are generally the most abrasive ones available, as opposed to Sensodyne which claims to be the least abrasive and thus the most gentle on your teeth. Whitening products in general (even whitening strips and rinses) tend to aggravate sensitivity. There are some toothpastes that claim to be for sensitivity and whitening, but just know that these two things are sort of opposites, and if you really want relief you probably shouldn’t worry about whitening for a while.
Hopefully, this helps a little bit. People tell us that the toothpaste isle can be overwhelming with all of the choices there are today. The short and sweet answer for me is that you can’t go wrong with Sensodyne brand toothpaste, but if you are willing to look deeper you may find a better option for yourself.
***Please keep in mind that sensitivity (especially sensitivity to pressure when you bite) can be a sign of something more serious. Please tell us if you have sensitivity so that we can determine if treatment is needed.***
Visit Keech Family Dentistry in Fayetteville, AR to learn more about your options. To schedule an appointment, call (479) 217-3178 or request an appointment online.