At some time in your life, you will likely experience a period of dental pain when you drink or eat something cold, hot or sweet. Referred to as having “sensitive teeth” by typical toothpaste commercials, many manufacturers of toothpastes advertise that their products are specially designed for those with sensitive teeth and that it will alleviate the problem.
However, a new study questions the true effectiveness of these toothpastes and put several brands to the test with a carefully designed comparative analysis to discover which toothpastes work best for people with sensitive teeth.
According to a news release about the study, researchers using donated human teeth, an acidic solution to simulate a typical oral-diet environment and artificial saliva, tested 8 different brands of toothpaste and one control toothpaste by brushing the test teeth with an automatic brushing machine once per day for five days.
“We used a microhardness test to calculate enamel loss due to brushing with the toothpastes tested. The chemical analysis consisted of measuring toothpaste pH and levels of tin, calcium, phosphate and fluoride,” said Samira Helena João-Souza from the University of São Paulo’s School of Dentistry (FO-USP) in Brazil and first author of the article.
“During brushing with these toothpastes mixed with artificial saliva, we found that the properties of the toothpastes were different, so we decided to broaden the scope of the analysis to include chemical and physical factors. This [broadening] made the study more comprehensive.”
What the tests revealed was that all of the tested toothpastes resulted in progressive tooth surface loss over the five-day testing period.
“None of them was better than the others. Indication will depend on each case. The test showed that some [toothpastes] caused less surface loss than others, but they all resembled the control toothpaste [for] this criterion. Statistically, they were all similar, although numerically, there were differences,” stated Professor Ana Cecília Corrêa Aranha, co-author of the article.
According to the release, the cause of teeth sensitivity has to do with erosion of the protective enamel near the gums and the teeth caused by acid without bacterial involvement (i.e. acidic beverages in the diet) in conjunction with the abrasive mechanical action from a toothbrush and the toothpaste used that together chemically and physically results in erosive wear.
“Toothpaste won’t solve the problem completely. Dental erosion is multifactorial. It has to do with brushing, and above all, with diet. Food and drink are increasingly acidic as a result of industrial processing,” said João-Souza. “Research has shown that dentin must be exposed with open tubules in order for there to be hypersensitivity, and erosion is one of the causes of dentin exposure. This is why, in our study, we analyzed toothpastes that claim to be anti-erosive and/or desensitizing.”
So, what should a person do about teeth sensitivity? There’s no need to throw your sensitive-teeth brand toothpaste away just because it may not work any better than regular toothpaste. Rather, the authors recommend that such toothpastes be used to complement your dental hygiene instead of seeing it as a cure or treatment for sensitive teeth.
The best solution is to see your dentist about the problem for an accurate diagnosis of why you have sensitive teeth and find out the best strategy for taking care of the problem which may include a softer bristle brush, corrected brushing technique, and/or a change in diet that eliminates acidic foods and beverages.
Agência FAPESP news release “Toothpaste alone does not prevent dental erosion or hypersensitivity”
Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) “Chemical and physical factors of desensitizing and/or anti-erosive toothpastes associated with lower erosive tooth wear” Samira Helena João-Souza et al.