Tooth sensitivity can be one of the most frustrating things to live with, especially if you can't get through a meal without wincing. From swollen gums to trouble chewing, the tell-tale signs that your teeth need more TLC may seem easy spot and treat with the best toothpastes for sensitive teeth, but the truth is, you can't really get to the root of the problem until you understand how it starts.
"Sensitive teeth are something we see pretty frequently in our practice," says Dr. Samantha Sacchetti, a general dentist at Chicago-based Village Dental. "Sensitivity occurs when the layer of tooth below enamel, called dentin, is exposed. Unlike enamel, which is very hard, dentin is more porous and has tiny tubules that connect to the nerve in the center of the tooth. Any fluid movement within the tubules can stimulate the nerve and is perceived as pain."
And when that pain hits, it tends to be pretty unmistakable. According to Dr. Lana Rozenberg, a New York-based cosmetic dentist, it can be a serious indication that you have sensitive teeth. "You know that you have sensitive teeth if, when you drink or eat cold things, you feel an uncomfortable sensation in your teeth, which makes you want to avoid those drinks or food."
While it's always important to consult with a dentist if you're having serious pain or oral discomfort, there are a number of steps you can take to manage the problem on your own, including brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush twice a day, remembering to floss, and above all, switching to a better toothpaste. But before you do, you want to make sure you're selecting a new one with care, because they're not all the same.
"Not all toothpastes are created equal. Some can even cause problems," says Dr. Neil Hadaegh of NH Dentistry in Beverly Hills, Calif. "Many types of toothpaste are highly abrasive and actually strip away tooth enamel, which never grows back."
If you have sensitive teeth, these three toothpastes are all dentist-recommended to provide relief and protection, and can help you on your way to achieving a healthier smile.
1This Expert-Recommended Toothpaste For Sensitive Teeth
When it comes to toothpastes for sensitive teeth, Sensodyne brand options (like this one, which is specifically formulated to repair and protect teeth) are the most recommended by the dentists I spoke with 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.
2This Toothpaste That Offers That Maximum Amount Of Potassium Nitrate
Colgate Sensitive Toothpaste, Complete Protection, Mint, $10 (Pack of 3), Amazon
For sensitive teeth, Colgate brand toothpastes are recommended by Dr. Rajan Sharma, a Chicago-based endodontist. This Colgate toothpaste, which is formulated for sensitive teeth, contains the maximum-strength amount of potassium nitrate allowed by the FDA. Potassium nitrate, an anti-sensitivity active ingredient, penetrates teeth and helps desensitize the nerve. Another benefit of this toothpaste is that it helps protect enamel, which is important for overall oral hygiene. "For those with sensitive teeth, a key feature to look for is toothpaste that remineralizes enamel," says Sharma.
3This Toothpaste For Showing Off A Brighter, Whiter Smile
Sensodyne 24/7 Sensitivity Protection Extra Whitening Toothpaste, $10 ( pack of 2), Amazon
Most dentists agree that teeth whitening products aren't good for those with sensitive teeth because they contain peroxide, which can be damaging to teeth and wear away at thin enamel. Charcoal toothpastes, which are also becoming a popular option for teeth whitening, may also be damaging to sensitive teeth because of how abrasive they are. However, if you're still eager to use teeth whitening products, this toothpaste from Sensodyne — which helps to whiten teeth while still relieving pain and discomfort related to having sensitive teeth — could be the solution. "Some patients with sensitive teeth don't want to give up the whitening toothpastes, so I tell patients to alternate with a toothpaste like Sensodyne and see if that helps alleviate their symptoms," says Dr. Sacchetti.
4This All-Natural Toothpaste That's Perfect If You Want A Fluoride-Free Option
Although most dentist recommend fluoride toothpastes, for those with sensitive teeth who are looking for a fluoride-free toothpaste, this all-natural option does it all: removes plaque, cleans teeth, freshens breath, and even helps make teeth brighter. Formulated with pineapple and papaya enzymes, it's free of any harsh abrasives like SLS and carrageenan. It also has a refreshing mint flavor, so your breath will feel crisp after use.
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