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.