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Updated on October 3, 2022

Desensitizing Toothpaste

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What is Desensitizing Toothpaste?

Sensitive teeth are uncomfortable and can affect quality of life. Fortunately, treatments are available to alleviate the sensitivity. Desensitizing toothpaste is an affordable and easy way to reduce the effects.

Science shows desensitizing toothpaste is an effective way to treat tooth pain caused by sensitivity. However, it does not treat the underlying causes of tooth sensitivity.

How Does Desensitizing Toothpaste Work?

Teeth are made of three layers:

  1. Enamel
  2. Dentin
  3. Pulp

Sensitive teeth are most commonly caused by weakening of enamel. As your enamel wears away, it exposes the dentin. Dentin contains tubules that travel to the nerves contained inside the pulp.

The exposure of dentin causes the pain associated with tooth sensitivity.

Desensitizing toothpaste contains ingredients that either block the openings of your tubules or block the pain signals from being transmitted to your brain.

Tooth sensitivity can also be caused by other conditions including:

  • Exposed tooth roots
  • Cavities
  • Recessed gums
  • Cracked or chipped teeth
  • Old fillings
  • Gum disease

These conditions cannot be alleviated by desensitizing toothpaste and will need treatment from your dentist.

Ingredients to Look for

Desensitizing toothpastes are only effective if they have the proper ingredients. 

Key ingredients found in desensitizing toothpastes include:

  • Potassium nitrate — believed to block the transmission of pain signals from nerves to your brain1
  • Arginine & calcium carbonate — mimics saliva’s natural process of plugging and sealing open dentinal tubules2,3
  • Calcium sodium phosphosilicate — creates a mineralized layer that blocks exposed dentin4
  • Strontium chloride — blocks the openings of tubules in dentin3
  • Fluoride — helps strengthen tooth enamel and can help build a protective layer4

When to See a Dentist

If you are experiencing sensitive teeth, consult your dentist. 

Desensitizing toothpaste only treats the symptoms of sensitive teeth. If it doesn’t help, that’s an indicator of an underlying issue.

Your dentist can perform a full oral health examination and determine the underlying cause of your sensitive teeth. Treating the underlying cause gives you the best chances of eliminating tooth sensitivity.

If you have swelling in your gums, bleeding gums, or extreme pain, see your dentist as soon as possible. These are signs of infection.

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, "desensitizing toothpaste can often help tooth sensitivity. However, if you have continuous tooth pain, it's important to see a dentist as there may be an underlying issue that requires treatment."

Other ways to Treat Sensitive Teeth

Other home remedies for sensitive teeth include:

Salt Water Rinse

Salt is an antiseptic, so it can help clean your mouth and reduce inflammation. Rinsing with salt water twice a day can reduce pain from sensitive teeth. To use a salt water rinse:

  • Add ½ to ¾ tsp of salt to a glass of lukewarm water and mix
  • Gargle and swish for 30 seconds
  • Spit out the solution

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant and antiseptic. It can help heal gums and prevent inflammation. To use:

  • Mix two caps of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to equal parts lukewarm water
  • Gargle and swish up to 30 seconds
  • Spit out the solution
  • Rinse your mouth with water thoroughly to remove any remaining hydrogen peroxide

In-Office Treatment

In many cases, sensitive teeth require more treatment. The type of in-office treatment will depend on the underlying cause.

In-office treatments include:

Fluoride Treatment

Fluoride treatment can help strengthen tooth enamel and reduce pain. Your dentist may choose to apply fluoride to the sensitive areas of your tooth. They can also prescribe fluoride that you’ll apply at home with a custom tray.

Cavity Filling

If your sensitivity is caused by a cavity, a filling can help protect your tooth and cover up the exposed dentin or pulp.

Dental Bonding

If your tooth roots are exposed, a bonding resin may be used to cover the roots and maintain your tooth’s shape and function.

Surgical Gum Graft

If gum tissue has been lost from your tooth root, a gum graft may be performed. A small amount of gum tissue can be taken from a different part of your mouth and reattached to the affected location. 

Root Canal

A root canal treats problems in your pulp. This is the most invasive technique for eliminating sensitive teeth.

Preventing Sensitive Teeth

To prevent sensitive teeth, the most important thing is to have a proper at-home oral care routine. This includes:

  • Brushing at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush for two minutes (30 seconds per quadrant)
  • Floss once a day
  • Use mouthwash once a day

Other ways to prevent sensitive teeth include:

  • Use fluoride toothpaste
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Avoid using abrasive toothpaste
  • If you grind your teeth, use a custom mouth guard
  • Avoid acidic foods or liquids
  • Use a straw to drink sugary or acidic beverages
  • See your dentist once every six months
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on October 3, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Bartold, PM. “Dentinal Hypersensitivity: A Review.” Australian Dental Journal, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2006. 
  2. Kar, Prem Prakash, et al. “Comparison of the Effectiveness of Three Different Desensitizing Toothpastes in Reducing Dentin Hypersensitivity: A 4-Week Clinical Study.” Journal of Conservative Dentistry: JCD, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, Mar. 2019. 
  3. Yang, Zheng-Yan, et al. “Arginine-Containing Desensitizing Toothpaste for the Treatment of Dentin Hypersensitivity: A Meta-Analysis.” National Library of Medicine, Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dentistry, 7 Jan. 2016. 
  4. Zhu, Mengjiao, et al. “The Effect of Calcium Sodium Phosphosilicate on Dentin Hypersensitivity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Public Library of Science, National Library of Medicine, 6 Nov. 2015. 
  5. Meng-Long, Hu, et al. “Effect of Desensitizing Toothpastes on Dentine Hypersensitivity: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, Journal of Dentistry, Aug. 2018. 
  6. Karim, B. F. A., and D. G. Gillam. “The Efficacy of Strontium and Potassium Toothpastes in Treating Dentine Hypersensitivity: A Systematic Review.” Hindawi , International Journal of Dentistry, 8 Apr. 2013. 
  7. Neuhaus, Klaus W, et al. “Effectiveness of a Calcium Sodium Phosphosilicate-Containing Prophylaxis Paste in Reducing Dentine Hypersensitivity Immediately and 4 Weeks after a Single Application: A Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Clinical Periodontology, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Apr. 2013.
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