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Potassium Nitrate for Teeth

by
author image Judith Tompkins
Based in New York, Judith Tompkins has been writing sleep and nutrition articles since 2002. She worked for six years as a polysomnographer and now serves as a nutrition consultant. Tompkins received an associate's degree in polysomnographic technology from Cuyahoga College, as well as a master's degree in applied clinical nutrition from New York Chiropractic College.

Potassium nitrate, also known as saltpeter, is a salt substance made of potassium and nitrogen. It is famous for being one of the main components of gunpowder, but recently, it has been growing in popularity for its ability to reduce tooth sensitivity. Many toothpaste manufacturers are beginning to add potassium nitrate into their toothpastes to help people avoid the pain of sensitive teeth and gums.

History

Potassium nitrate started out in China as one of the main components of gunpowder. The Chinese used the gunpowder to give themselves an advantage over its enemies. Around 1242 A.D., Europeans began to use potassium nitrate to make the black gunpowder that fueled guns and bombs for the next 650 years. TNT and dynamite eventually replaced black powder as the main explosive, with potassium nitrate then used mainly for fertilizer, food preservation and in fireworks today.

Toothpaste

Potassium nitrate is an ingredient that is being included in more and more toothpaste brands today -- and for good reason. Potassium nitrate can help alleviate the painful feeling of sensitive teeth. The substance works by shielding exposed nerve endings so that they are not exposed to harsh mouth environments. Within a month of brushing your teeth with the new toothpaste for the first time, you should start to notice a difference in tooth sensitivity. If you observe no difference, try switching to a different brand that contains a higher level of potassium nitrate.

Why Teeth Are Sensitive

Teeth are sensitive for several reasons, mostly from wear and tear. For some people, their teeth are sensitive because their enamel has worn away. Others have cracks in their teeth or cavities, and some have worn away their gums, exposing the delicate nerve endings to foods and liquids. Determining the actual cause of your sensitive teeth might be difficult, but a good dentist should be able to at least narrow it down.

Avoid Tooth Sensitivity

Before you need toothpaste that reduces tooth sensitivity, it is best to avoid any actions that will cause a sensitivity to develop. One of the leading causes of sensitivity is teeth grinding. Many people grind their teeth at night, and they don't even know it. Put a mouth guard over your teeth before bed, and if you notice any bite marks or wear on the guard in the morning, it's likely that you grind your teeth at night. Keep the guard on at night to avoid any damage to your enamel.

Using the wrong toothbrush or brushing improperly can also lead to sensitive teeth. When buying a toothbrush, make sure it says it is soft-bristled. Many brushes sold today are medium- or hard-bristle brushes, and they can damage your teeth easily. When brushing your teeth, use a light motion and simply slide the bristles around on your teeth without pushing down. Avoid brushing more than two times a day; excessive brushing can speed up erosion.

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