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Treating Sensitive Teeth with Care

Q. Do you have any suggestions for dealing with sensitive teeth? Anything cold is very painful.

The dentist says the nerve endings are exposed.

A. Dentists usually recommend toothpastes with potassium nitrate (such as Sensodyne, Aquafresh, Colgate Sensitive or Crest Sensitivity) to desensitize teeth. A review of the evidence by the impartial Cochrane Collaboration found, however, that there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that potassium nitrate is effective (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 3). A study in Taiwan found that toothpaste containing potassium citrate reduced sensitivity reactions (Journal of Dental Sciences, Dec, 2009); as far as we can tell, this ingredient is not available in toothpaste in the U.S.

The American Dental Association warns against over-vigorous brushing that can expose sensitive dentine. It also suggests using desensitizing toothpaste, or if that is not sufficient, a dentist can apply fluoride gel or plastic sealer to protect the dentine.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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