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Home > Daily Dental Care > Dental Hygiene > Desensitizing Pastes Really Do Work
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Desensitizing Toothpastes Really Do Work

Desensitizing toothpastes are an effective remedy.

Hyper-sensitive teeth, a condition experienced by as many as one in every seven Americans, can be eased by using desensitizing toothpastes -- products that have been proven effective.

A hyper-sensitive tooth usually is the result of gum recession or abrasion. A tooth's hard protective enamel coating ends near the gum line. As the gums recede with age, or as a result of gum disease, they expose part of the softer, more sensitive tooth root, including tiny channels that lead to the center of the tooth. Without their defenses, these channels are unable to prevent sweet, acidic and cold foods from infiltrating and irritating the teeth's nerves.

Desensitizing toothpastes, which use potassium nitrate, sodium citrate or strontium as their active ingredients, are specially formulated to block the channels and restore the shield that guards the nerves.

Dentists often urge patients with sensitive teeth to gently massage desensitizing toothpaste onto teeth at bedtime because a tooth's natural protector, the flow of saliva, tends to diminish during sleep.

The desensitizing toothpaste market is dominated by Sensodyne®, which may claim as much as 40 percent of the market.

"During the past few years, we've seen more companies develop desensitizing toothpastes," says Howard Sorenson, national sales manager of the professional division, John O. Butler Company, makers of Protect®. "There used to be only a couple of players, but the demand has exploded. With as many as 40 million Americans with sensitive teeth, you can bet that this is an area that will receive a lot of attention from manufacturers in the future. Plus, there will be advancements with desensitizing pastes in the future."

One challenge for manufacturers, he says, will be educating consumers about these pastes -- what they can do and what they cannot do. "For example, many consumers do not realize they need to use these products for about a month before they get any therapeutic effect," says Mr. Sorenson.

He is quick to note that desensitizing toothpastes cannot solve all problems associated with sensitive teeth. "Sensitive teeth may indicate a more serious problem such as a cavity or broken tooth," he says.

The Chicago Dental Society recommends that patients with sensitive teeth visit the dentist regularly to develop appropriate strategies to relieve their pain.

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