Almost all the toothpastes discussed elsewhere in this report include sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) as a surfactant. It's what gives the toothpastes their pleasant foaminess. Some people find that SLS irritates their mouths, however, contributing to the incidence of canker sores or other mouth discomfort. Another problem dentists frequently encounter is sensitive teeth -- teeth that hurt when touched by hot or cold food or drink.
A lot of things can cause canker sores and sensitive teeth, but most toothpastes designed for sensitive mouths and teeth don't include SLS, which can dry the gums and lining of the mouth. Some toothpastes for sensitive teeth made by Sensodyne and other brands also contain potassium nitrate, an ingredient that can alleviate tooth sensitivity. Dentists say that some patients only need to use a toothpaste for sensitive teeth for a month or two, for example if you're using a whitening product, like strips, that may contribute to sensitivity, while others need to stay with it indefinitely. We cover teeth whitening products in a separate report.
There's no doubt about it: the brand Sensodyne reigns supreme when it comes to products made for sensitive gums and teeth. Sensodyne ProNamel Gentle Whitening (Est. $10 for 2) is a popular choice. It is designed to restore teeth to their natural whiteness and protect enamel against acid erosion, which causes teeth to grow yellow, thin, transparent and dull. This makes it a good choice for heavy coffee drinkers and people at risk of acid erosion, as it reportedly strengthens acid-softened enamel and prevents further enamel from dissolving. In addition, its desensitizing formula actually has a cumulative effect -- it makes teeth less sensitive over time.
Sensodyne ProNamel Gentle Whitening is a top pick among experts, and user reviewers are very pleased with the product. They say it has a pleasant taste and that it does gradually whiten teeth. A number of users remark that regular brushing with this toothpaste essentially cured their hot/cold sensitivity. Some people who don't have sensitivity issues say they used this product to decrease their sensitivity before switching to a stronger whitening product, such as strips or gels. Many also say it provides long-lasting fresh breath. It does not carry the ADA seal due to its whitening ingredients, which the ADA does not evaluate.
Alternatively, if you don't want or need whitening but want a top-rated toothpaste for sensitive teeth, consider Sensodyne Repair and Protect Toothpaste (Est. $5). Its active ingredient is stannous fluoride, which prevents cavities from forming. The product earns high praise from users, who praise the taste and gentle formula. Sensodyne Repair and Protect is ADA approved.
Another solid choice for people with teeth or gums sensitivity is Colgate Sensitive Complete Protection Toothpaste (Est. $7). Like Sensodyne, it contains potassium nitrate as an anti-sensitivity agent that gradually builds tolerance for hot, cold and sugary foods. It also contains fluoride, which promotes plaque removal and healthy gums. This product has also earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
Colgate Sensitive Complete Protection gets positive feedback from users, with most saying it is very effective for treating teeth and gums sensitivity. A number of reviewers remark that they were advised to try the product by their dentist, and several commenters say that it is more or less comparable to Sensodyne, yet the taste of Colgate toothpaste to Sensodyne products.
Another go-to toothpaste for mitigating sensitivity is Aquafresh Sensitive Toothpaste (Est. $16 for 4). Like the Sensodyne products and Colgate Sensitive Complete Protection, Aquafresh Sensitive contains potassium nitrate as an anti-sensitivity agent and is intended to lessen teeth and gum sensitivity after a few weeks of use. It comes in "Smooth Mint" flavor or as a "Maximum Strength Sensitive + Whitening" toothpaste.
Although Aquafresh Sensitive is well liked among its many user reviewers, some note that it can be hard to find in stores. Reviewers remark that the toothpaste is effective at reducing sensitivity and that it isn't as abrasive as equivalents by other brands. Some say the taste is too mild or leaves a bad aftertaste; others say they like it just fine. It does not carry the ADA seal, again, due to its whitening claims.
Elsewhere in this report: