Mouthwash for Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth can be treated with potassium oxalate mouthrinse

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Chris Galloway, M.D. Beth Bolt, RPh

If you have sensitive teeth, you know that it can be a pain — literally. New research shows that a certain mouthrinse could provide relief for people with dental sensitivity.

A recent clinical trial tested a mouthrinse against normal toothpaste and desensitizing toothpaste to see if it made teeth less sensitive to hot and cold food and drinks.

The researchers found that the mouthrinse decreased the pain and discomfort that comes with sensitive teeth.

"Talk to your dentist about desensitizing mouthrinse."

The team of researchers, led by Deepak Sharma, conducted this research in order to see if a specific mouthrinse containing potassium oxalate would be safe and effective for desensitizing teeth.

"Cervical dentine sensitivity," or sensitive teeth, can occur in up to 57 percent of a given population. A person with sensitive teeth experiences sharp, brief pain in their teeth, usually when exposed to hot or cold substances.

Sensitive teeth are thought to be caused by the exposure of nerves inside of the teeth. Each tooth has tiny tubes that extend out from the tooth's pulp. Hot or cold substances can affect the flow of the fluid inside these tubes and trigger pain in the nerves.

Sensitive teeth are more common in people with periodontitis, a type of gum disease.

Mouthrinses can be used for a variety of reasons. Some mouthrinses freshen breath, while others reduce plaque, cavities and bacteria. Some therapeutic mouthrinses are marketed as treatments for sensitive teeth.

Potassium oxalate has been shown to decrease tooth permeability, which would prevent the irritation of nerves in the teeth.

To test the potassium oxalate mouthrinse, the researchers designed a six-week study. Each of the 226 participants had tooth sensitivity. For the first two weeks, all participants brushed their teeth with a sodium fluoride toothpaste.

During the next four weeks, the participants were split into three groups. One group used the toothpaste plus the potassium oxalate mouthrinse. The second group used only the sodium fluoride toothpaste. The third group used a toothpaste that claimed to desensitize teeth and contained 5-percent potassium nitrate.

Each of the participants visited the clinic four times for the researchers to analyze how sensitive their teeth were at the time. Sensitivity was tested using a probe and an air stimulus response test. The subjects recorded any pain or discomfort during the tests. They also rated their discomfort when drinking hot and cold beverages and foods at each visit.

The researchers found that the participants using the mouthrinse had significantly decreased tooth sensitivity and pain compared with the group that only brushed their teeth.

The participants using the toothpaste with potassium nitrate also had significantly superior results than the group using toothpaste alone.

The group using the desensitizing toothpaste and the group using the desensitizing mouthrinse had comparable success. However, previous studies have found that potassium chloride, the active ingredient in densensitizing toothpaste, may have more temporary effects on desensitization.

The researchers speculated that the potassium oxalate creates crystals that stop up the tiny tubes in teeth, preventing irritation and sensitivity.

"This mouth rinse for sensitive teeth could be the solution that both my patients and myself have been looking for," said Brian Childs, DDS, dentist and partner at Childs and Childs Cosmetic Dentistry. "This will help hundreds, if not thousands of my patients!"

This study was published in the Journal of Dentistry in July.

The study was funded by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Services. Two of the authors declared associations with Johnson & Johnson, but the other two researchers declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 23, 2013
Last Updated:
November 19, 2013