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Best Toothpaste For Sensitive Teeth

Toothpaste on toothbrush head

In this article I explain what causes tooth sensitivity and how to avoid it, and recommend some good toothpastes to choose from.

If you don’t need a sensitive toothpaste specifically, you may find our more generalised best toothpaste article more helpful.

And to see our full range of toothpaste content, visit our toothpaste hub page, which lists all of our content in an easy-to-find format.

What is tooth sensitivity?

A short, sharp pain from the tooth in response to being exposed to hot and cold, or sometimes to sweet and spicy foods. Sometimes the sensitivity also occurs when the tooth is touched, e.g. when brushing the teeth.

What causes tooth sensitivity?

Ultimately, tooth sensitivity is caused by exposed dentin tubules (the nerves that sense pain lie within these parts of the tooth). A change in hot/cold/pH etc causes movement of the nerve within the tubule, which causes a pain signal to be sent to your brain.

The real question is how do dentin tubules become exposed?

Causes of dentin exposure (and therefore tooth sensitivity) include:

  • Gum disease: Gum recession due to gingivitis and periodontitis.
  • Damage at the gum line caused by over brushing. This can cause both gum recession to expose the dentin and also wears away the enamel on the tooth surface, to expose dentin.
  • Grinding habits: Wearing away the enamel layer due to bruxism will expose the dentin tubules.
  • Dental treatment: Tooth whitening can cause temporary sensitivity. Professional cleaning and fillings can also lead to sensitivity.

Key tips for avoiding sensitivity

  1. Gum health is key. Avoid gum disease to avoid gum recession. Brush twice daily and use some form of interdental cleaning every day.
  2. Avoid over brushing. Being mindful of how you brush to make sure you do not press too hard with the brush. Using an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor can help to monitor this.
  3. Minimise tooth wear by avoiding acidic foods and drinks.
  4. Use a specialised sensitivity toothpaste to manage any symptoms you may have.

Most people experience some sort of sensitivity at some point in their lives, and normally this is nothing to worry about. But if it carries on for over a week, or suddenly gets a lot worse, make sure you get it checked by a dental professional.

When to start using a specialist sensitive toothpaste

If you only get occasional sensitivity, it may not affect you enough to start using a sensitivity toothpaste.

There are actually very few downsides to using a sensitive toothpaste if you don’t need it, but they do tend to be a bit more expensive than a regular toothpaste.

Just beware that because sensitivity can be caused by several different reasons, only treating tooth sensitivity (without knowing what is causing it) can be dangerous. For example, if there is actually decay and that is causing the sensitivity, it may get better temporarily with toothpaste, but long term it could develop into a painful abscess.

So, if you have had your teeth checked by the dentist and they have confirmed no underlying cause for the sensitivity then it may be time to start a sensitive toothpaste.

This is especially true if the symptoms are starting to bother you, and you feel that you need to start changing your diet or lifestyle, then it may be time to start using a specialist sensitive toothpaste.

There is no need to suffer in silence as there are plenty of different toothpastes to help!

How to choose a sensitive toothpaste

The best sensitivity toothpastes included on this page have been selected using the guidelines below:

  1. They contain fluoride (unless they are specifically in the fluoride free category)
  2. They contain one of the active ingredients for preventing and treating sensitivity.
  3. They are non abrasive (to avoid worsening any tooth wear related sensitivity). This means an RDA of 250 or below.

Different toothpastes do have different active ingredients. You need to give them a couple of weeks to see if they do have an effect. 

If one particular paste doesn’t work, don’t fear – there are plenty more to try. For some people it is simply a case of trial and error to find the perfect sensitive toothpaste. 

A final tip, is that over time you may become “immune” to the toothpaste (it has less of an effect). If this is the case, simply switch brands for a few weeks or months and then you can switch back again.

If you are shopping for a toothpaste that is not included on this page, use the advice above as a guideline.

I have included some further advice on choosing a toothpaste on our toothpaste hub page.

The best sensitive toothpaste: 5 good options

To keep things simple, immediately below I have included 5 good toothpaste choices if you have sensitive teeth.

I then compare some other options further down the page, and look at good sensitive toothpastes in specific categories — natural, whitening and fluoride-free.

I’ve also included a longer list of sensitive toothpastes at the bottom of this page.

Tom’s of Maine Fluoride-Free Rapid Relief Sensitive Toothpaste

Tom's of Maine Fluoride-Free Rapid Relief Sensitive Toothpaste

This is the only toothpaste widely available in the US that actually contains arginine, which is why this toothpaste has made it to this list.

In the US, I would regard this as the best arginine toothpaste for sensitivity.

Arginine is effective in treating sensitivity as it blocks the small holes in the dentin that lead to sensitivity. It is definitely worth trying as a different type of sensitivity toothpaste. Even more so if you haven’t had any positive effects from other types of sensitive toothpaste.

One disappointment for me is that there is no fluoride in the toothpaste. Because of this I would recommend you also use a fluoride containing toothpaste twice daily at a separate time of day to ensure you still get the anti-cavity effects.

Pros

  • Active ingredient: arginine
  • Instant relief is possible by rubbing directly onto the tooth
  • “Natural” toothpaste with no artificial flavours, colors, or preservatives
  • No animal ingredients
  • Not tested on animals
  • Ethical company working to minimize the total environmental impact, including moving towards recyclable tubes & donating part of profits to charity.
  • Easily available in supermarkets and drug stores
  • Suitable for daily use

Cons

  • No ADA recommended fluoride

Price comparison

  • 4 Ounce / 113 grams per tube
  • Approx. $4-4.50 per tube
  • $

Dr Collins’ Biomin C

Biomin C Toothpaste

BioMin C is one of the best calcium phosphate toothpastes available. The bonus with this is the remineralisation effect of the calcium phosphates (and protection from cavities, although this is not yet ADA approved).

The only downside is the lack of fluoride in this paste, despite a fluoride containing version, BioMin F, being produced. At the time of writing there are no stockists within the US. Dr Collins’ website explains:

“BioMin® F is not currently available for sale in the US. Although the Fluoride levels in BioMin® F are well below OTC levels in normal toothpaste, Fluoride is classified as a drug in the US and has not yet been approved by the FDA.”

I would recommend still using a fluoride containing toothpaste twice daily in addition to this toothpaste.

Pros

  • Active ingredient: calcium and phosphate ions
  • Low abrasive toothpaste, with an RDA value of 68
  • No animal-derived products
  • No animal testing
  • FDA Approved
  • Suitable for daily use

Cons

  • Only available online from select retailers
  • No ADA recommended fluoride

Where to buy

Price Comparison

  • 3.5 Ounce / 100 grams per tube
  • Approx. $8 per tube
  • $

Sensodyne Essential Toothpaste (Fresh Impact, Fresh Mint)

Sensodyne Essential Toothpaste

Sensodyne are known for their sensitivity toothpastes, but they use two different active ingredients: stannous fluoride or potassium nitrate. I have included Sensodyne Essentials here as it is ADA recommended for benefits of sensitivity control, whilst also being one of the cheapest potassium nitrate containing toothpastes.

For an alternative, you could check out or list of potassium nitrate containing Sensodyne toothpastes, and pick your favourite flavor, or whatever is on offer – there aren’t any that I wouldn’t recommend!

Pros

  • Active ingredient: potassium nitrate
  • ADA seal of acceptance
  • SLS free
  • Contains fluoride
  • Widely available in stores and online retailers
  • Suitable for daily use

Cons

  • Contains food coloring and dyes
  • No information on animal testing or animal derived ingredients

Where to buy

Price comparison

  • 4 Ounce / 113 grams per tube
  • Approx. $5.50-6 per tube
  • $$

Crest Gum & Sensitivity

Crest Gum & Sensitivity

I have included this toothpaste as one of the best toothpastes for sensitive teeth because it is ADA accepted for multiple benefits, including bad breath control, plaque/gingivitis control, sensitivity control, and stain removal It’s hard not to like that!

Crest claims this toothpaste “Starts working on sensitivity immediately for relief within days starts working immediately by blocking tubules”, which can only be a benefit for this toothpaste. But don’t be surprised if it takes several days or even weeks to gain a full benefit.

Crest Gum and Sensitivity comes in a few different varieties, all of which I could recommend:

  • Refreshing mint.
  • All day protection.
  • Gentle whitening.

Pros

  • Active ingredient: stannous fluoride
  • ADA Seal of Acceptance for desensitizing role
  • Multiple benefits from stannous fluoride
  • Contains fluoride
  • Widely available in stores and online retailers
  • Suitable for daily use
  • Affordable

Cons

  • No information on animal testing or animal derived ingredients

Where to buy

Price Comparison

  • 4.1 Ounce / 116 grams per tube
  • Approx. $4-5 per tube
  • $

Colgate Total SF (Daily Repair)

Colgate Total SF (Daily Repair)

Another stannous fluoride option in the top 5, I have included Colgate Total SF because of it’s easy availability and because of how cheap it is! Colgate Total SF may be one of the cheapest sensitivity toothpastes there are.

There isn’t an awful lot of difference between different stannous fluoride toothpastes really, but you may find that you prefer the taste of one over the other. The other benefit of Colgate Total SF is the wide range of toothpastes there actually are, including “Deep Clean”, “Fresh Mint”, whitening options, and even a gel if that is what you prefer.

Pros

  • Active ingredient: stannous fluoride
  • Stannous fluoride provides protection against gingivitis, stains, tartar and cavities
  • Contains fluoride
  • Widely available in stores and online retailers
  • Suitable for daily use
  • Affordable

Cons

  • No information on animal testing or animal derived ingredients

Where to buy

Price Comparison

  • 5.1 Ounce / 144 grams per tube
  • Approx. $4 per tube
  • $

Best natural toothpaste for sensitive teeth 

Natural toothpastes are generally free from any unnecessary chemicals and artificial ingredients. If you are looking for a natural toothpaste that is effective against sensitivity, I would recommend:

  • Hello sensitivity with fluoride (view on Amazon). The active ingredient is potassium nitrate, and it also contains aloe vera. The paste is free from artificial sweeteners and flavors, and is also SLS free, as well as being vegan and cruelty free.
  • AloeSense (view on Amazon) – is naturally soothing due to aloe and allantoin. This paste is also ADA accepted due to fluoride preventing cavities. 

Best whitening toothpaste for sensitive teeth 

Actual whitening treatments can cause tooth sensitivity, but what about whitening toothpastes you can use at home? Well bear in mind that these will only remove stains, and will not lighten the overall colour of your teeth. But they may still give you the results you want.

You may want to avoid stannous fluoride containing toothpastes if you are concerned about staining. Generally, stannous fluoride is linked to staining on teeth, also manufacturers claim they can reduce this effect with the correct formulation.

Beware of abrasiveness with whitening toothpastes, which could make any existing sensitivity worse. But the following toothpastes contain active ingredients to help control tooth sensitivity whilst also improving appearance:

  • Crest 3D White Whitening Therapy Sensitivity Care Toothpaste (sometimes referred to as Crest Sensitivity Whitening, view it here on Amazon) – the active ingredient is potassium nitrate for control of sensitivity, whilst also containing sodium fluoride for protection against cavities. According to Williamson Perio, the RDA is 152, which is well below the FDA and ADA limits, but you potentially cause damage if used incorrectly.
  • Colgate Sensitive Toothpaste: Whitening (view on Amazon) – again, the active ingredient is potassium nitrate, with sodium fluoride for anti-cavity protection. The RDA is not easily available, but other Colgate Sensitive toothpastes rank under 100.

Best fluoride free toothpaste for sensitive teeth

Two fluoride free sensitive toothpastes have actually made it to the best of selection further up! 

One of the major ingredients that helps with sensitivity is actually stannous fluoride, so if you avoid this, you are limited to using a toothpaste containing either arginine, calcium phosphate ions or potassium nitrate.

Honestly, if you suffer from sensitive teeth and want a fluoride free toothpaste you should check out these two products from our list above:

Alternatively, for a potassium nitrate containing fluoride free toothpaste you could try Dr Sheffield’s Natural Sensitive Toothpaste (view it here on Amazon). This is fluoride free yet still contains 5% potassium nitrate, but avoids artificial ingredients.

Best Sensodyne toothpaste

Big pharmaceutical company GSK produces Sensodyne and Pronamel, and it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. Below is some advice on how you can pick the variation of Sensodyne that is best suited to you:

  1. Look at the active ingredients. In the US Sensodyne and Pronamel have one of two active ingredients: potassium nitrate or stannous fluoride. I have split these into a helpful table below. If one ingredient isn’t working for you, try switching to the other. The active ingredient is the main difference with the pastes.
  2. Decide whether to go for SLS-Free. This is worth considering if you suffer from sore gums or ulcers. I go into more detail in my post on the best SLS-Free toothpastes.
  3. Pick any other helpful ingredients, such as those for whitening. That being said, when it comes to whitening there won’t be much difference with these — they will only remove stains, not whiten the overall color of the tooth.
  4. Use this tool on the Sensodyne website to help you decide.

To put it bluntly, there isn’t one single best Sensodyne toothpaste. Other than two different active ingredients, there isn’t an awful lot of difference in the formulations, but there may be a big change in price.

The table below shows which pastes contain Stannuous Fluroide, and which ones contain Potassium Nitrate.

Stannous FluoridePotassium Nitrate
Sensodyne Sensitivity & GumSensodyne True White
Sensodyne Rapid ReliefSensodyne Extra Whitening
Sensodyne Repair and ProtectSensodyne Essential: deep clean, fresh mint, full protection, tartar control, fresh impact
Sensodyne Complete ProtectionSensodyne Pronamel Daily Protection
Sensodyne Pronamel Intensive Enamel Repair
Sensodyne Pronamel Strong & Bright

Prescription toothpastes

Finally, if you have tried many different options and they aren’t helping, there are some specialist products you can get on prescription from your dentist or buy directly from your dentist’s office.

  • Take home pastes. Contain stronger concentrations of ingredients, or ingredients not available in normal stores.
    • Prescription only
      • Colgate PreviDent® 5000 Enamel Protect (1.1% Sodium Fluoride, 5% Potassium Nitrate)
      • Colgate Duraphat toothpastes (Sodium fluoride)
    • Available without prescription
      • Colgate Gel-Kam Gel (0.4% Stannous fluoride)
      • Colgate Anywhere Anytime Serum (Arginine in formula)
      • Crest Sensi-strips (dipotassium oxalate)
      • PhillipsRelief ACP Gel (Calcium Phosphate, fluoride and potassium nitrate)
  • At the dentist’s office: the dentist can apply specials gels and varnishes such as:
    • VOCO Remin Pro – calcium phosphate
    • 3M ESPE Clinpro™ – calcium phosphate 
    • Colgate Duraphat fluoride varnish 
    • GC MI Varnish -calcium phosphate

About the ingredients used in sensitive toothpastes

Arginine 

Arginine is an essential amino acid, actually found naturally within the body. However the doses found in saliva are much lower than those found in toothpastes.

Arginine is used to treat sensitivity by blocking the exposed dentin tubules (where the nerves are exposed). Blocking these tubules and the exposed nerves prevents irritation of the nerve and so reduces tooth sensitivity.

The relief from a tubule blocker is relatively quick, and you can notice an effect almost instantly with some products.

Unfortunately, there are very few toothpastes on the US market which do contain arginine, so choice is limited. However you may also be able to buy arginine-containing products at your dentist’s office to take home.

Calcium and Phosphate Ions

Calcium and phosphate ions help to remineralize the outermost surface of the tooth with hydroxapetite. Ultimately this blocks the tubules, preventing irritation of the nerves within them. There are a couple of formulations you may have heard of, Novamin and BioMin, which have slight differences between them.

  • Novamin – Calcium Sodium Phosphosilicate – a “bioactive glass” which essentially releases calcium and phosphate ions. Some evidence shows Novamin is more effective than BioMin when it comes to blocking dentin tubules. What this means is that it may be more effective if there is gum recession exposing root dentin or where there has been enamel wear exposing the dentin.
  • BioMin – Calcium FluoroPhospho Silicate – a “bioactive glass” which essentially releases calcium and phosphate ions, also containing fluoride. 

Potassium Nitrate

Potassium nitrate prevents sensitivity by preventing the nerve from passing on the pain message from the tooth to the brain. It is a nerve calming agent.

Although it prevents the message being passed on, it does not treat the cause of sensitivity, so you could develop sensitivity once again.

It takes time for potassium nitrate to work, so there is no instant relief. You need to use these products for a few weeks to see if they work for you, and if they do help – do not stop using them!

Anecdotally the treatments work, and there seems to be a lot of evidence from manufacturers, but there is only limited evidence when reviewed independently by the Cochrane Collaboration.

Stannous Fluoride

Stannous fluoride treats the cause of sensitivity by blocking the ends of the exposed dentin tubules. This prevents the nerves found inside the tooth from being irritated when being exposed to hot or cold.

A tubule blocker like stannous fluoride has an almost instant effect in relieving you from tooth sensitivity. 

Strontium Chloride

Strontium chloride treats sensitivity in teeth by blocking the message between the pain receptors and the brain. In other words, it is a nerve calming agent.

Strontium chloride doesn’t treat the root cause of the sensitivity and so you may develop tooth sensitivity again in the future.

You need to give it a couple of weeks for the effect of strontium chloride to build up before it can take full effect, and then continue to use it even if the symptoms improve. 

At the time of writing, strontium chloride is not widely used in US toothpastes.

FAQ

Below are some common questions about sensitive toothpaste. If you’ve got any questions of your own, leave a comment at the bottom of this page.

Is Sensodyne or Colgate sensitive better?

How useful a toothpaste is to you depends on the active ingredient. You can pick between stannous fluoride or potassium nitrate for Sensodyne or Colgate. As this is a personal choice, neither is “better”.

Is all Sensodyne toothpaste for sensitive teeth?

All Sensodyne toothpastes contain either stannous fluoride or potassium nitrate and are useful if you suffer from sensitive teeth.

Can sensitive toothpaste cause sensitive teeth?

Not everyone gets a benefit from all sensitive toothpastes. One ingredient may work better than another for you. If you switch products and ingredients, you may lose the benefits from the other toothpaste. The new toothpaste hasn’t caused the sensitivity, but it is no longer helping. If you suddenly develop sensitive teeth, see a dental professional.

Does toothpaste for sensitive teeth work?

Yes, toothpastes formulated for sensitive teeth do work, but you may need to try different active ingredients to find one that works for you.

Are there any other products that could help with sensitivity?

As well as using a sensitive toothpaste, you could consider a sensitive mouthwash, or a prescription product from your dentist.

Other sensitive toothpastes

In case none of the products from our list above appeal to you, here are some additional sensitive toothpastes to consider.

When picking a toothpaste, I recommend considering the general advice on choosing a toothpaste from our toothpaste hub page.

Name of ProductAnti-cavity protectionActive ingredientPrice RangeAlso good for…
hello® sensitivity reliefFluoridePotassium Nitrate$$Natural
SLS free
Vegan
Crest Gum and SensitivityfluorideStannous fluoride$$Gum disease
Crest Gum and Sensitivity Gentle WhiteningfluorideStannous fluoride$$Gum disease
Whitening
Crest Sensitivity Complete ProtectionfluorideStannous fluoride$$
Crest 3D White Whitening Therapy Sensitivity Care ToothpastefluoridePotassium Nitrate$$Whitening
Crest Pro-Health Sensitive and Enamel ShieldfluorideStannous fluoride$$
Sensodyne Sensitivity & GumfluorideStannous fluoride$$Whitening available
Sensodyne Rapid RelieffluorideStannous fluoride$$Whitening available
Sensodyne Repair and ProtectfluorideStannous fluoride$$Whitening available
Sensodyne Complete ProtectionfluorideStannous fluoride$$
Sensodyne True WhitefluoridePotassium Nitrate$$SLS free
Whitening
Sensodyne Extra WhiteningfluoridePotassium Nitrate$$SLS free
Whitening
Sensodyne Essential: deep clean, fresh mint, full protection, tartar control, fresh impactfluoridePotassium Nitrate$$SLS free
Sensodyne Pronamel Daily ProtectionfluoridePotassium Nitrate$$
Sensodyne Pronamel Intensive Enamel RepairfluoridePotassium Nitrate$$
Sensodyne Pronamel Strong & BrightfluoridePotassium Nitrate$$
Colgate TotalSF (any variant)fluorideStannous Fluoride$Gum disease
Whitening available
Colgate Sensitive Lasting FreshfluoridePotassium Nitrate$
Colgate Enamel Health Multi-Protection ToothpastefluoridePotassium Nitrate$$
Colgate Sensitive Toothpaste, Prevent and RepairfluoridePotassium Nitrate$$
Colgate Enamel Health Sensitivity Relief ToothpastefluoridePotassium Nitrate$$
Colgate Sensitive Toothpaste, Complete ProtectionfluoridePotassium Nitrate$
Colgate Sensitive Toothpaste, WhiteningfluoridePotassium Nitrate$Whitening
Colgate Anywhere Anytime Serum noneArginine$$$
CVS Health Maximum Strength Sensitive Toothpaste with FluoridefluoridePotassium nitrate$
BioMin CCalcium phosphatesCalcium and Phosphate Ions$$
Tom’s of Maine Fluoride-Free Rapid Relief Sensitive ToothpastenoArginine$$Natural
Simply Silver ToothpastenoArginine$$Natural
Non-mint available
SLS free
AloeSensefluorideHerbal$$Natural
SLS free
Biorepair® ParodontgelhydroxyapetiteCalcium and phosphate ions$$$Gum disease
SLS free
Vegan
Biorepair® Gum ProtectionhydroxyapetiteCalcium and phosphate ions$$$Gum disease
SLS free
Vegan
OraltidePRO™Intensive Repair GelCalcium phosphatesCalcium and phosphate ions$$$Gum disease
Sheffield’s Natural Sensitive ToothpastenonePotassium nitrate$$Natural
SLS free

About Dr. Gemma Wheeler

Gemma qualified from Cardiff University School of Dentistry in 2015. She went on to complete her Foundation Training and a further two years in the Armed Forces, primarily based around Wiltshire. She now works in a private practice in Plymouth.

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