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Do toothpastes for sensitive teeth actually work?

Posted on May 16,2022

Looking at the causes of tooth sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is primarily caused by exposure of the inner substance of your teeth, the dentine. This can be as a result of loss of the protective enamel or recession of the gums, both of which cover the dentine.

There are many potential causes for the worn down tooth enamel which leads to sensitive teeth. One of the most common is consumption of acidic drinks; but reflux, such as in GORD or during pregnancy; broken down, decayed or cracked teeth; or even drug use can all contribute to teeth sensitivity.

Recession of the gums is frequently the result of a heavy bite. Clenching or grinding can occur during sleep as a result of partially blocked airways or at times of stress. Over a long period of time this can lead to loss of gum height and concavities in your teeth at the gum line. As you may imagine, this can lead to sensitivity to cold, sweet or acidic foods and drink.


Yet perhaps the most common cause of sensitive teeth is simply brushing too hard. And oddly enough, medium or even hard bristle toothbrushes are freely available at your local supermarket, which are really too hard for your teeth.

When you brush too hard, your gums can recede, leaving the tooth roots exposed. This in turn exposes the tiny tubules which lead to the tooth nerve. When air or cold water reaches these exposed tubules, you’ll start to feel that sharp sensation of sensitive teeth.

It’s not a pleasant experience. So what can be done to help lessen the feeling of tooth sensitivity?

Tips to help you avoid sensitive teeth

When you’re brushing your teeth every morning and night, take care to brush gently and not scrub your teeth, which can remove the protective enamel over time. Imagine you’re massaging your teeth gently with the toothbrush, for at least two minutes.

Always choose a soft bristled toothbrush, and avoid medium or hard options. Hard or medium toothbrushes won’t actually clean your teeth and gums any better than a soft brush – and they can wear down your tooth enamel and even damage your gums over time.

If you use an electric toothbrush, make sure you use the softer head, and don’t press too hard. Some models of electric toothbrush have a pressure indicator that can help with this.


Can toothpaste help with sensitive teeth?

There are many options for sensitive teeth toothpastes. Some may work for you, while others may not. That’s why it’s a good idea to try a few different toothpastes to see which works for you.

Remember that toothpaste for sensitive teeth can help with some causes of sensitivity, but not all. For example, if you have tooth decay, or broken down and cracked teeth, then toothpaste alone won’t be able to address your tooth sensitivity.

How do toothpastes for sensitive teeth work?

Sensitive teeth toothpastes have active ingredients such as potassium nitrate or stannous fluoride, which work to block the tiny tubules in the dentine. These toothpastes sometimes take a few days or even weeks to take full effect as they gradually place a protective layer over your teeth’s tubules, so that they have less ability to transmit pain. It’s not an instant fix, but by using toothpaste for sensitive teeth consistently it can work to improve your condition over time.

If you notice you have some particularly sensitive areas, you can try rubbing a little toothpaste directly onto that area, and leaving it overnight. This can offer a more concentrated use of the toothpaste’s active ingredient.

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Can a dentist help with sensitive teeth?

If you have used sensitive teeth toothpaste over a period of time and still have sensitivity, the dentists here at Wickham Terrace Dental should assess your teeth to see what the cause of the ongoing sensitivity it. If it is just heavily-exposed dentine, they can apply a special concentrated fluoride varnish to your teeth. This temporary protective coating covers up your teeth’s exposed tubules, to relieve sensitivity immediately. This can then allow the natural healing mechanisms of the teeth to take effect.

And if you have a real problem spot with sensitivity, your teeth may have exposed areas which are a lot deeper, decay in the tooth, a failing filling or even a hairline crack in the tooth. In this case, we can recommend the most appropriate course of action: application of a filling to block off the path to the tooth nerve, remove decay or replace a failing filling; or possibly a crown to repair a cracked tooth.

Talk to us about treating your sensitive teeth

To find out more about your sensitive teeth and what can be done about them, get in touch with our Brisbane dentists on (07) 3831 3031 or contact us online now.

Topics: sensitive teeth

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