Sensitive Teeth? There's One Ingredient You Need to Know About
First things first, what does it mean to have
Tooth sensitivity can be caused by a variety of things ranging including genetics, high acid diets, poor oral hygiene, tooth damage, dental treatments, tooth whitening, and general aging. When you have “sensitive teeth,” you experience discomfort or pain from partaking in various foods based on its temperature or taste. Most common teeth sensitivities are to heat, cold, sweet, and sour. So if you’ve ever felt pain after eating a sour gummy worm, drinking hot coffee, or licking an ice cream cone, you might have sensitive teeth.
What causes tooth sensitivity?
Your teeth are made of several layers. The outermost layer is the enamel. This strong protective surface is what keeps your inner layers safe from . At the center of your tooth is the nerve. Nerves are the brain’s way of receiving information from around the body. In your mouth, the tooth’s nerves tell you if you’re chewing too hard, if you have any damage to your teeth. When your teeth are sensitive, the nerve in your tooth is talking to your brain about every minor inconvenience rather than just major issues.
How do you treat tooth sensitivity?
There are dozens of sensitivity solutions on the market, all claiming to reduce tooth sensitivity, but how do they work? Most of them use Potassium Nitrate.
What is Potassium Nitrate?
Potassium Nitrate (KNO ₃) is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in things including vegetables, fertilizer, rocket fuel, and gunpowder. In humans, it has been shown to react with the bacteria your mouth leaving Nitrite, a bioactive compound that improves vasculature.
How does Potassium Nitrate work?
In toothpaste, Potassium Nitrate enters your mouth and reacts with your oral bacteria leaving behind Nitrate. The Nitrate affects the tubules in your teeth that are full of fluid. These tubules send fluid around by the nerves in your teeth which communicate with your brain what is going on inside the tooth.
When the Potassium Nitrate reduces the fluid flow through the tubules, it slows or even stops information from reaching the nerve, preventing your brain from telling you that you’re in pain In other words, if your nerves are the freeway at rush hour, the fluid is the cars, and Potassium Nitrate is the construction zone that reduces the freeway from four lanes to one, slowing traffic to a crawl and stopping some drivers from reaching their intended destination altogether.
This means if your toothpaste has Potassium Nitrate, you may be able to drink your coffee, eat your sour candy, and lick your ice cream cones in peace once again.
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Hobbs, D., George, T., & Lovegrove, J. (2013). The effects of dietary nitrate on blood pressure and endothelial function: A review of human intervention studies. Nutrition Research Reviews, 26(2), 210-222. doi:10.1017/S0954422413000188
Mahale et al. IOSR-JDMS. 2015; 14(10): 21-24. https://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jdms/papers/Vol14-issue10/Version-1/D0141012124.pdf