The short answer is yes. Sensitive toothpastes can be a great way to get rid of that short, sharp, electric pain when you have something very cold or very hot.

I need to explain at the start that there isn’t a great deal of good evidence for how well they work. Most of the evidence that does exist has been done by the companies that make the sensitive toothpaste. This is like allowing a child to write their own school report. You may not be able to completely trust the results.

But I do believe that they can be really helpful for some people.

What causes tooth sensitivity?

We’ve gone through this in more detail in our article on sensitive teeth.

Most of your tooth is made of dentine. Dentine has lots of tubes that run from the outside of the tooth to the nerve in the middle. This isn’t normally a problem because the tubes are protected by a layer of hard enamel or a layer of gum. The dentine is covered and the nerve is safe and sound.

But if the enamel wears away or the gum shrinks, the sensitive dentine is exposed. If you have a cold ice cream, the cold travels down the tubes in the dentine. The cold reaches the nerve who’s not very happy and gives you a short, sharp shock.

How do sensitive toothpastes stop this?

Sensitive toothpastes used to be crammed full of potassium and salts that aimed to dull the feeling in the tooth’s nerve. This was supposed to act to numb the tooth. A few years ago, research showed that this was actually pretty useless. The salts weren’t doing anything. These sensitive toothpastes from 10 years ago didn’t really work.

Now toothpaste companies have worked this out and the current sensitive toothpastes seem to be much more effective.

The latest sensitive toothpastes work by building up a protective layer over the sensitive area. This insulates the nerve, preventing those nasty shocks.

It doesn’t work instantly. You usually need to use the sensitive toothpaste for a few days before the layer builds up. But lots of people find these modern toothpastes really helpful.


A word of warning

It’s fantastic to get rid of sensitivity. Sensitive teeth can really put you off your Mr Whippy.

However, tooth sensitivity can sometimes be the first sign of a problem. There could be tooth decay starting. Or a filling might be leaking.

Even if a sensitive toothpaste gets rid of your pain, it is worth mentioning it to your dentist. You don’t want the sensitive toothpaste to hide a problem that you don’t know about.

If you are not sure whether your pain is sensitivity or not, take a look at out toothache article. Here, we discuss all of the different pains that you can get in your mouth and what may be causing them.

Best sensitive toothpaste in 2018

I get sensitive teeth so I have personal experience of this. I used to drink too many fizzy drinks as a teenager and I washed away lots of my enamel, leaving me with sensitive teeth. It was stupid of me but I didn’t know any better at the time. My favourite sensitive toothpaste is the Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste.

Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief
70 Reviews
Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief
  • Toothpaste - Don't think twice about sensitivity with clinically proven Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief.
  • Sensitivity - Its Pro-Argin formula instantly seals channels to sensitive nerves.
  • Lasting relief - This toothpaste creates a fixed, long term barrier to pain when used regularly.
  • Dentists - Brush with confidence and free yourself from the pain of sensitive teeth with technology used by dentists.
  • Instant relief - For instant relief, apply directly to the sensitive tooth with your finger tip, and massage gently for 1 minute, up to twice a day.

The important ingredient in this sensitive toothpaste is Arginine. Arginine works to build up a protective layer over the sensitive area of tooth. This insulates the nerve of your tooth, making it comfortable. It also has plenty of fluoride in it to help to protect against tooth decay. What makes the Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste special is that you can take a little bit for the toothpaste, rub it on the sensitive area and leave it on there. When you do this, your sensitivity will go away much more quickly and you’ll be able to have your Mr Whippy in comfort.

I have sensitive teeth. Which toothbrush should I be using?

The type of toothbrush you use can make a big difference to your sensitivity. If you use a hard bristled toothbrush and you scrub away at your teeth, you’re likely to cause gum recession and you could even damage the root surface of your teeth. A soft bristled brush will be more gentle on your gums but the problem with most soft toothbrushes is that they are rubbish at removing plaque and bacteria. So if you’re choosing a manual toothbrush, you need to buy the best. By far the best manual electric toothbrush is the Curaprox Ultra Soft toothbrush. It gives a gentle clean but is amazingly durable. They last very well and are extremely well made.

Curaprox Ultra Soft toothbrush - Pack of 3
525 Reviews
Curaprox Ultra Soft toothbrush - Pack of 3
  • Make your gums fall in love with your CS5460 Ultra Soft Toothbrush. Octagonal handle helps users to brush at the correct angle
  • 5,460 CUREN bristles
  • Funky and Colourful
  • This item is available in different colors. You will receive a randomly chosen product from the range shown.
  • A pre-selection of a certain color by the customer is unfortunately not possible with the order

However, I would advice that you would be better using an electric toothbrush. It does the hard work for you and prevents you from over-scrubbing your teeth. Electric toothbrushes have been proven to remove more bacteria than manual brushes. The best electric toothbrush for sensitive teeth is one of the Philips Sonicare toothbrush range.

If you would like more information on the best toothbrushes for sensitive teeth and gum recession, take a look at this article.

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