If you have sensitive teeth, you’re probably all too familiar with the pain it causes. Whether your sensitivity is triggered by cold, sweet, or acidic foods, the result is a sharp pain that makes it difficult to enjoy your meals. One potential solution for tooth sensitivity is specially-formulated toothpastes that dull nerve pain and remineralize the teeth. Here’s what you should know.
Understanding Tooth Sensitivity
To understand how sensitive toothpaste works, first we need to understand tooth sensitivity. When teeth are sensitive, it means the nerves inside them are being stimulated more than they should be. One of the most common reasons for this is enamel wear. If you brush your teeth too hard, grind your teeth, or have a diet high in acidic foods, the enamel on your teeth can wear away, exposing the dentin underneath. The dentin layer itself isn’t sensitive, but it does have more microscope holes, called tubules, that can allow the foods you eat to permeate and cause nerve pain in the pulp.
Another potential cause of tooth sensitivity is gum disease. As gum disease advances, it can lead to gum recession. This leaves more of the root portion of your teeth exposed, which doesn’t have the same amount of enamel as the crown.
What Is Sensitive Toothpaste?
Sensitive toothpaste—or desensitizing toothpaste—contains an ingredient called potassium nitrate that blocks the transmission of pain signals from the nerves in your teeth to the brain. To address the root cause of your sensitivity, it will also contain fluoride to strengthen your tooth enamel and block the tubules in the dentin layer. There are also some varieties of sensitive toothpaste that promise to remineralize and rebuild the enamel layer.
Unfortunately, toothpaste for sensitive teeth takes some time to start working. You may begin using a product for sensitive teeth and believe it’s not making any difference in your discomfort, then stop using it before it has a chance to be effective. If you have sensitive teeth, we can recommend the best toothpaste for your needs; use it for at least a month to determine whether it’s working for you.
Other Solutions for Sensitive Teeth
If toothpaste for sensitive teeth isn’t helping with your sensitivity, there are a few other potential solutions available at our office. If your sensitivity is localized to small areas of root exposure, we can apply bonding material to block the tubules and keep stimuli from reaching the nerves. For more severe gum recession, we recommend a gum graft, which will reduce sensitivity by covering over the exposed roots.
Finally, if you have a single tooth that is particularly painful and nothing else has helped, a root canal may be needed to remove the sensitive nerves and pulp. This is usually considered a last resort, but it is highly effective, as your tooth will no longer have any feeling.