If you suffer from sensitive teeth on a daily basis, then you may be looking for ways to help reduce and manage the discomfort.
Look no further! In this article I will 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
- Gum health is key. Avoid gum disease to avoid gum recession. Brush twice daily and use some form of interdental cleaning every day.
- 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.
- Minimise tooth wear by avoiding acidic foods and drinks.
- 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:
- They contain fluoride (unless they are specifically in the fluoride free category)
- They contain one of the active ingredients for preventing and treating sensitivity.
- 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
I’ve also included a longer list of sensitive toothpastes at the bottom of this page.
GC Tooth Mousse
GC Tooth Mousse is significantly different to many of the other pastes available for tooth sensitivity, and is definitely worth a try if you have been unsuccessful with other toothpastes.
It has a truly unique formulation compared to other pastes on the market. It contains Amorphous Calcium Phosphate (ACP), which increases the number of calcium and phosphate ions available to help block tubules causing sensitivity.
It works even better if you have trays (such as tooth whitening trays) to wear overnight. In fact, I recommend this to all patients to use for a week before starting tooth whitening with me. Due to the fact that it has no fluoride, I would recommend that you use this in addition to your usual toothpaste, at a separate time of day. The fluoride containing version, GC MI Paste, may be available through your dental practitioner.
- Active ingredient: Recaldent: calcium and phosphate ions
- Reduces sensitivity
- Five flavours available
- No fluoride
- Unsuitable if you have a milk allergy
Superdrug Procare Sensitive Toothpaste
This affordable toothpaste from Superdrug has made it to my list of best toothpastes for sensitive because it is vegan and cruelty free. There are few toothpastes available that meet the criteria of having an active ingredient against sensitivity, in this case potassium nitrate, plus fluoride plus being vegan, and still being a good price!
- Active Ingredient: Potassium Nitrate
- Vegan and cruelty free
- Contains fluoride
- Contains SLS
Where to buy
- 75ml tube
- Approx. £1.99 / tube
BioMin F is an award winning sensitivity toothpaste.
This paste was developed in the UK, and is definitely worth a try if regular sensitivity toothpastes aren’t cutting it for you. In fact, studies have shown relief for up to 90% of patients suffering from sensitivity.
The only real downside of this toothpaste is trying to get hold of it – there are a couple of stockists available online who will deliver to you directly, or you may need to find a dentist who stocks the product.
- Active ingredient: calcium and phosphate ions
- Low abrasive toothpaste – RDA value of 68
- No animal-derived products
- No animal testing
- Contains fluoride
- Suitable for daily use
- Oral Health Foundation approved
- Only available online from select retailers
Sensodyne Daily Care
Sensodyne is known for its sensitivity toothpastes, but they use two different active ingredients: stannous fluoride or potassium nitrate. I have included Sensodyne Daily Care here as it is one of the cheapest potassium nitrate containing toothpastes.
The Sensodyne Daily Care range includes four different varieties: Original, Gentle Whitening, Extra Fresh, Deep Clean. They all contain Potassium Nitrate and so are all equally effective at reducing your sensitivity. The ingredients lists are largely the same, apart from:
- Extra Fresh contains additional ingredient CI 42090, which is a colourant.
- Gentle Whitening variety includes Pentasodium Triphosphate and Alumina to help reduce stains, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate (a foaming agent)
- The Deep Clean variety is a gel as opposed to a paste, and additional ingredients compared to the original flavour include Pentasodium Triphosphate and SLS!
My recommendation would be to stick to Sensodyne Daily Care Original, or even the gentle whitening version to help reduce staining, and to avoid the paste with SLS and unnecessary colourants.
For an alternative, you could check out our list of potassium nitrate containing sensodyne toothpastes below.
- Active ingredient: potassium nitrate
- SLS free
- Contains fluoride
- Widely available in supermarkets and pharmacies
- Suitable for daily use
- Contains food colouring and dyes
- No information on animal testing or animal derived ingredients
Oral-B Pro-expert range
I have included this toothpaste as one of the best toothpastes for sensitive teeth because the stannous fluoride it contains actually is proven to have multiple benefits, including bad breath control, plaque/gingivitis control, sensitivity control, and stain removal. It’s hard not to like that!
Oral-B claims this toothpaste “Starts working on sensitivity immediately for relief within days and 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.
Oral-B Pro Expert comes in a few different varieties, which all have a similar ingredients list:
- Clean Mint
- Deep Clean
- Healthy White
- Professional Protection
- Sensitive & Gentle whitening.
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 flavours, and is also SLS free, as well as being vegan and cruelty free.
- AloeSense – 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:
- Oral-B 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 (view on Amazon): Whitening – 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
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 GC Tooth Mousse in the list above. It contains arginine but has no protection against cavities.
There is also BioMin C (view it here on Amazon), which contains patented calcium and phosphate technology that can aid remineralisation and provide some protection against decay as well as sensitivity.
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:
- Look at the active ingredients. In the US Sensodyne and Pronamel have one of two active ingredients: potassium nitrate, stannous fluoride or Novamin. 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.
- 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.
- 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 colour of the tooth.
- 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 Fluoride||Potassium Nitrate|
|Sensodyne Sensitivity & Gum: original, Whitening||Sensodyne Daily Care: Original, Gentle Whitening, Extra Fresh, Deep Clean|
|Sensodyne Rapid Relief: Original, Whitening, Extra Fresh||Sensodyne Pronamel Daily Protection: Gentle Whitening, Daily Protection, Extra Freshness|
|Sensodyne Repair and Protect: Original, Whitening, Extra Fresh **NOVAMIN**||Sensodyne Pronamel Intensive Enamel Repair: Original, Whitening|
|Sensodyne Complete Protection: original, Whitening **NOVAMIN**||Sensodyne Pronamel Strong & Bright|
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 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)
- GC MI Paste (calcium and phosphate ions plus fluoride)
- Prescription only
- At the dentist’s office: the dentist can apply specials gels and varnishes such as:
- VOCO Remin Pro – calcium phosphate
- VOCO ProFluorid Varnish – sodium fluoride
- 3M ESPE Clinpro™ – calcium phosphate
- Colgate Duraphat fluoride varnish
- GC MI Varnish -calcium phosphate
About the ingredients used in sensitive toothpastes
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 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 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 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.
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 Product||Anti-cavity protection||Active ingredient||Price Range||Also good for…|
|hello® sensitivity relief||Fluoride||Potassium Nitrate||£££||Natural|
|Oral-B Pro-Expert||fluoride||Stannous fluoride||£|
|Oral-B Pro-Expert Sensitive + Gentle Whitening||fluoride||Stannous fluoride||££||Whitening|
|Oral-B 3D White Therapy Sensitive Toothpaste||fluoride||Potassium Nitrate||££||Whitening|
|Sensodyne Daily Care||fluoride||Potassium Nitrate||£||SLS free|
|Sensodyne Sensitivity & Gum||fluoride||Stannous fluoride||££||Gum Disease|
|Sensodyne Rapid Relief||fluoride||Stannous fluoride||££||Whitening available|
|Sensodyne Repair and Protect||fluoride||Calcium and phosphate ions (Novamin)Stannous fluoride||££||Whitening available|
|Sensodyne Complete Protection||fluoride||Calcium and phosphate ions (Novamin)||££|
|Sensodyne Pronamel Daily Protection||fluoride||Potassium Nitrate||£||SLS free|
|Sensodyne Pronamel Intensive Enamel Repair||fluoride||Potassium Nitrate||£||SLS free|
|Sensodyne Pronamel Strong & Bright||fluoride||Potassium Nitrate||£||SLS Free|
|Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief Toothpaste (Original, Repair & Prevent, Enamel Repair, Extra Strength, Smart White||fluoride||Calcium and phosphate ions (Pro-Argin)||£|
|Colgate Pro-Relief Sensitive (Multi-Protection)||fluoride||Potassium Nitrate||£|
|Colgate Sensitive Sensifoam||fluoride||Potassium Nitrate||£|
|Colgate Max White Extra Care Sensitive Whitening Toothpaste||fluoride||Potassium Nitrate||££||Whitening|
|BioMin C||Calcium phosphates||Calcium and Phosphate Ions||££|
|Biomin F||fluoride||Calcium and Phosphate Ions||££|
|Biorepair® Parodontgel||hydroxyapetite||Calcium and phosphate ions||££||Gum disease|
|Biorepair® Gum Protection||hydroxyapetite||Calcium and phosphate ions||££||Gum disease|
|Superdrug Procare Sensitive Toothpaste||fluoride||Potassium Nitrate||£||Vegan|
|Superdrug Pro Care Sensitive Whitening Toothpaste||fluoride||Potassium Nitrate||£||Whitening|
|Arm & Hammer Sensitive Pro Repair Baking Soda Toothpaste||fluoride||Calcium and phosphate ions||£|
|Arm & Hammer Total Pro Clean and Repair||fluoride||Calcium and phosphate ions||£||Whitening|
|Boots Smile Sensitive Toothpaste||fluoride||?||£|
|Boots Smile Totalcare Toothpaste||fluoride||Potassium nitrate||£|
|Ecodenta sensitive whitening||HAP||Potassium nitrate||£||Natural|
|Ecodenta Organic Salt Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth||none||Potassium Citrate||££||Natural|
|Regenerate Enamel Science™ toothpaste||fluoride||Calcium and phosphate ions||£££|
|Regenerate Enamel Science™ Advanced Enamel Serum||fluoride||Calcium and phosphate ions||£££|
|Biomed Sensitive Toothpaste||HAP||Calcium and phosphate ions||£||Natural|
|Ultradex Whitening Toothpaste||FluorideHAP||Calcium and phosphate ions||££||Bad Breath|
|Sensodyne Daily Care||fluoride||Potassium Nitrate||£||SLS free|
|GC Tooth Mousse||Calcium and phosphate ions||Calcium and phosphate ions||£££||Non mint available|
|GC MI Paste||fluoride||Calcium and phosphate ions||£££||Non mint available|
|Aloedent||Fluoride (fluoride free available)||Herbal||££||Natural|