What Are Desensitizing Toothpaste and How It Works

Woman suffering from dental sensitivity | Source: istock

If you’re one of the many people who wince in pain every time you take a sip of iced tea or a bite of ice cream, you know just how frustrating and uncomfortable tooth sensitivity can be. Sensitive teeth can make everyday activities such as brushing and flossing uncomfortable, and can even lead to avoiding certain foods altogether.

It’s like your teeth are sending out a constant SOS signal, making it difficult for you to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. But the good news is, you don’t have to suffer in silence anymore! Over the years, dentists have worked with toothpaste manufacturers to formulate desensitizing toothpastes that help to alleviate tooth sensitivity.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

The reasons why people suffer from dental sensitivity vary, but it usually comes down to certain lifestyle habits or health conditions. Some of the common causes include:

  1. Tooth decay or cavities: The tooth enamel is gradually broken down by decay and the formation of cavities, leaving the underlying dentin exposed.
  2. Bruxism (teeth grinding): Grinding your teeth can wear down the tooth enamel, exposing the dentin and making teeth more sensitive.
  3. Gum recession: When the gums recede, the roots of the teeth become exposed. The roots of the teeth do not have a protective layer of enamel and are more sensitive than the crowns of the teeth.
  4. Tooth whitening: Such procedures can lead to temporary tooth sensitivity due to irritation to the gum by the bleaching agent. However, most tooth sensitivity caused by teeth whitening procedures would go away in less than 24 hours
  5. Worn or fractured fillings: Fillings can wear down or crack over time, leaving the tooth underneath more exposed.
  6. Regular consumption of acidic food: The consumption of acidic food such as citrus fruits and tomatoes can erode the enamel.

How Do Desensitizing Toothpastes Works

Desensitizing toothpaste work by blocking or reducing the sensation of tooth sensitivity. This is done primarily through the active ingredient potassium nitrate, which has been shown to be effective in reducing the pain associated with tooth sensitivity.

When the toothpaste is applied to the sensitive area of the tooth, potassium nitrate is able to penetrate through the tooth enamel and reach the dentin layer of the tooth where the dentin tubules are located; these are tiny tubes that lead directly to the dental pulp and are responsible for the sensation in your teeth.

Diagram highlighting dentin tubules | Source: ResearchGate

The potassium nitrate fills up the dentin tubules, decreasing the amount of sensation signals passing from the dental pulp to the brain. This helps to reduce the sharpness of the tooth sensitivity as there are now less sensation signals being transmitted to the brain where it is being felt as pain.

On the other hand, ingredients such as sodium fluoride and stannous floride work to strengthen and restore the enamel. It also covers the exposed dentin tubules, providing a protective layer against cold and hot temperatures. This ultimately leads to a reduction in the sharpness of the tooth sensitivity as the exposed dentin tubules are now shielded against any stimuli such as ice water or hot soup.

It’s important to note that desensitizing toothpastes may take several weeks to take full effect. However, if you experience no drop in sensitivity after a prolonged use of desensitizing toothpaste, do consult your local dentist as it may signs of a more serious dental condition.

Best Desensitizing Toothpaste

Some of the best desensitizing toothpaste work to effectively reduce and even eliminate sensitivity issues in your teeth. From all natural ingredients to specially formulated enamels, each product has been evaluated for its ability to provide fast relief from painful sensations caused by sensitive teeth and gums.

1. Colgate Sensitive Toothpaste
2. Tom’s of Maine Fluoride-Free Rapid Relief Sensitive Toothpaste
3. Sensodyne Pronamel Multi-Action SLS Free Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth
4. Davids Nano Hydroxyapatite Natural Toothpaste, (Sensitive + Whitening)
5. ARM & HAMMER Sensitive Teeth & Gums Toothpaste
6. Crest Pro-Health Densify Toothpaste Daily Protection
7. Lumineux Teeth Whitening Toothpaste (Whitening Without the Sensitivity)

In conclusion, desensitizing toothpaste is a great option for individuals who suffer from sensitive teeth. These toothpastes are formulated with specific active ingredients that help to block pain and discomfort associated with sensitive teeth.

However, one should note that desensitizing toothpastes merely treats the symptoms and does not the underlying issue causing sensitivity. As such, it is best to visit a dentist to address the root cause of the problem.