Tooth sensitivity can be one of the most frustrating things to live with, especially if you can’t get through a meal without wincing. From swollen gums to trouble chewing, the tell-tale signs that your teeth need more TLC may seem easy spot and treat with the best toothpastes for sensitive teeth, but the truth is, you can’t really get to the root of the problem until you understand how it starts.

Sensitivity occurs when the layer of the tooth below enamel, called dentin, is exposed. Unlike enamel, which is very hard, dentin is more porous and has tiny tubules that connect to the nerve in the center of the tooth. Any fluid movement within the tubules can stimulate the nerve and is perceived as pain.

And when that pain hits, it tends to be pretty unmistakable. A sign of sensitive teeth is when you drink or eat cold things, you feel an uncomfortable sensation in your teeth, which makes you want to avoid those drinks or food.

While it’s always important to consult with a dentist if you’re having serious pain or oral discomfort, there are a number of steps you can take to manage the problem on your own, including brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush twice a day, remembering to floss, and above all, switching to a better toothpaste. But before you do, you want to make sure you’re selecting a new one with care, because they’re not all the same.

Not all kinds of toothpaste are created equal. Some can even cause problems.  Many types of toothpaste are highly abrasive and actually strip away tooth enamel, which never grows back.

If you have sensitive teeth, these four kinds of toothpaste are all dentist-recommended to provide relief and protection and can help you on your way to achieving a healthier smile.

Top 4 Toothpastes For Sensitive Teeth

  1.  Sensodyne Repair and Protect Sensitivity Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth Relief: When it comes to toothpastes for sensitive teeth, Sensodyne brand options are the most recommended by dentists.  This toothpaste is formulated with potassium nitrate — which helps soothe the nerve by blocking the neural transmission in the tooth that causes sensitivity — as well as stannous fluoride, which strengthens and protects the tooth structure.
  2. Colgate Sensitive Toothpaste, Complete Protection:  This Colgate toothpaste, which is formulated for sensitive teeth, contains the maximum-strength amount of potassium nitrate allowed by the FDA. Potassium nitrate, an anti-sensitivity active ingredient, penetrates teeth and helps desensitize the nerve. Another benefit of this toothpaste is that it helps protect enamel, which is important for overall oral hygiene. For those with sensitive teeth, a key feature to look for is toothpaste that remineralizes enamel.
  3. Sensodyne 24/7 Sensitivity Protection Extra Whitening Toothpaste:  Most dentists agree that teeth whitening products aren’t good for those with sensitive teeth because they contain peroxide, which can be damaging to teeth and wear away at thin enamel. Charcoal toothpastes, which are also becoming a popular option for teeth whitening, may also be damaging to sensitive teeth because of how abrasive they are. However, if you’re still eager to use teeth whitening products, this toothpaste from Sensodyne — which helps to whiten teeth while still relieving pain and discomfort related to having sensitive teeth — could be the solution. This toothpaste is great for whitening sensitive teeth.
  4. Tom’s of Maine Fluoride-Free Natural Sensitive Toothpaste:  Although most dentists recommend fluoride toothpastes, for those with sensitive teeth who are looking for a fluoride-free toothpaste, this all-natural option from Tom’s of Maine is a great option. Formulated with natural potassium nitrate, which helps to soothe pain in sensitive teeth, this Kosher- and Halal-certified toothpaste has a special abrasion formula that helps protect enamel from acids and stains. It also has a refreshing Wintermint flavor, so your breath will feel crisp after use.