toothpaste being squeezed out on toothbrush

Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth: Does it Make a Difference?

TeamGeneral Dentistry

Do you have sensitive teeth? If so, it can be extremely uncomfortable, like a sharp pain directly to the nerve of each tooth. Tooth sensitivity can result from cold, heat, sugar, and even air exposure. So how do you get relief?

You may have seen that there are toothpastes designed to desensitize teeth. First there was Sensodyne that was marketed directly to patients suffering from sensitive teeth. Then the other major brands of toothpaste followed suit, creating their own products. These contain certain ingredients that lessen the sensitivity of the teeth. But do they really work? And if so, how do they work?

Why are my teeth sensitive?

You may be wondering why you are experiencing tooth sensitivity in the first place. In general, tooth sensitivity is a result of a weakening of the enamel. Enamel is the hard top layer of your teeth that is responsible for protecting them against damage. When the enamel weakens or is worn away, the pores in your teeth can become exposed or enlarged, leading directly to the nerves inside of your teeth.

What are the active ingredients in sensitive teeth toothpaste?

There are actually 3 different active ingredients that a sensitive teeth toothpaste may contain:

  • Stannous fluoride
  • Potassium nitrate
  • Strontium chloride

When you read the active ingredients in any sensitive teeth toothpaste, you will generally see one or a combination of these ingredients.

How do these ingredients work?

The active ingredients in the toothpaste work to calm to the nerves in your teeth, desensitizing them to the triggers like cold, heat, and sugar. This resistance is built up over time by using the toothpaste for a few weeks. Typically you will need to continue your use of sensitive teeth toothpaste to achieve lasting results.

Are all sensitive teeth toothpastes the same?

No, there are definite differences between the various types of sensitive teeth toothpastes available. Some have different active ingredients that may affect how well they work. Another consideration is the other ingredients that make up the toothpaste. Some have high concentrations of baking soda, which is abrasive and can make sensitivity worse. If you have sensitive teeth, ask your dentist for a recommendation on what kind of sensitive teeth toothpaste you should use.

What’s the difference between prescription strength and over the counter toothpaste?

Your dentist may recommend a prescription strength toothpaste for sensitive teeth. The only real difference is that prescription strength toothpaste has a much higher concentration of the active ingredients than over the counter toothpaste has. It requires a prescription because the increase in the content of the active ingredient could cause an increased risk of potential side effects. But on the plus side, there’s a greater chance of the prescription strength toothpaste being effective at reducing your sensitivity.

Should I try over the counter or prescription strength?

If you don’t have a dental appointment coming up soon and your sensitivity is minor, it may be easier to try some of the over the counter sensitive teeth toothpaste and see how it goes. It could be all you need to reduce your sensitivity. But if your sensitivity is severe or persists after trying the toothpaste, it would be in your best interest to call your dentist and make an appointment. Your dentist will want to make sure there are no other problems with your teeth that could be causing your sensitivity, such as a cavity or an exposed root. If not, they may write you a prescription for some toothpaste to try.

Get Relief from Tooth Sensitivity at Emerson Dental

If you suffer from severe tooth sensitivity, you should make an appointment at Emerson Dental. We would like to examine the general condition of your teeth first to ensure there is no urgent cause for your sensitivity that needs to be addressed. If you have no immediate need for any dental procedures, we can prescribe you a sensitive teeth toothpaste to help relieve your discomfort. We may also recommend a fluoride treatment that is applied directly to your teeth in order to strengthen the enamel and prevent the development of further sensitivity. 

Call 978-399-0017 to make an appointment at our Westford office or 978-399-0017 for our Bedford office. You can also request an appointment at either convenient location. We look forward to helping relieve your sensitive teeth so you can enjoy the foods you love in comfort.