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If you regularly feel a sharp burst of pain after eating hot or cold food or sweets, you may have dentin hypersensitivity (DH). This condition occurs when the inner layer of a tooth becomes exposed and more sensitive to stimuli. DH can be uncomfortable and difficult for your dentist to diagnose. That’s where potassium nitrate comes in‚ it’s a desensitizing agent that can help people with this type of tooth sensitivity. Read on to learn more about potassium nitrate dental uses for DH.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

What causes tooth sensitivity to begin with? Fractured teeth, gum disease and tooth decay can all lead to tooth sensitivity. Any of these factors may cause wearing away of the tooth enamel and gum tissue, exposing the tooth root and the next layer of the tooth, known as the dentin. Normally, the enamel and dentin will protect and cover the underlying tooth nerves and tissues; however, if these outer layers are lost, the tooth’s nerves can become more reactive.

Potassium Nitrate Dental Uses

As a study in The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) notes, potassium nitrate is a salt compound commonly found in toothpaste and mouthwashes. The most common potassium nitrate dental uses involve treating DH, as the compound is known to help reduce tooth sensitivity by calming the nerve fibres in the teeth.

The JADA study states that dental products containing potassium nitrate as an active ingredient work by blocking the transmission of pain from your tooth to your brain. Potassium nitrate calms the tooth’s nerve activity so that you feel less discomfort when eating hot, cold, sweet or sticky foods.

Potassium Nitrate vs. Potassium Fluoride

Potassium fluoride is another compound that has dental uses, but it’s not the same as potassium nitrate. While potassium nitrate may be found in sensitivity toothpaste and mouthwashes, potassium fluoride is sometimes found in salt.

How to Relieve Tooth Sensitivity

There is a variety of commercially available toothpaste that contain potassium nitrate and high levels of fluoride. Speak with your dentist about the right toothpaste formula for your particular needs.

If you have DH, your dentist may also recommend the following treatments and at-home practices:

  • In-office fluoride applications on the exposed or weakened areas of the teeth to help strengthen the enamel and reduce sensitivity
  • A gum graft procedure, which will replace the lost gum tissue and protect the exposed part of your tooth root.
  • Reducing your intake of acidic foods and drinks, which can wear down the enamel over time and cause sensitivity.
  • Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and brushing with gentle strokes.

Tooth sensitivity is a common, treatable condition. Proper home care using desensitizing products recommended by your dentist may help ease your symptoms. Speak with your dentist or dental hygienist to discuss the best treatment options and products for you.