Making a Sensitive Patient a Happy Patient

Date: September 2020

Author: Mandy Dennis, RDH

One more article on sensitivity? Do you frequently see an article on sensitivity and casually read past it, as it’s just one more article? Isn’t it possible the reason there are so many articles continuing to be written is that we aren’t really addressing it? Many times we focus on sensitivity as a whole as opposed to addressing the root of the problem itself. Talking to patients about what hasn’t worked in the past, will help us find a solution for the future.

Why is it there?

I have seen so many patients who have said “I have sensitive teeth.” This may be stated as a general statement, almost in a sense of “I have brown hair.” What if we could change that? What if we could find out more from our patients, also identify patients who have sensitivity but don't mention it, and help our patients with great products that let them go about their daily lives without being affected by sensitive teeth.

Dentinal hypersensitivity pain “derives from exposed dentin in response to chemical, thermal tactile or osmotic stimuli which cannot be explained as arising from any other dental defect or disease.” It is our responsibility to help identify and then reduce or eliminate this painful problem for our patients. We need to talk with our patients and ask questions since some otherwise simply live with the problem and don't mention it to us.

Does your patient have exposed dentin associated with periodontal disease or treatment? Are they brushing hard? Do they have habits that contribute to exposed dentin? I once had a patient who was creating recession, by nervously picking at the gingival margin of their tooth, which further led to dentinal sensitivity since the dentin became exposed and had open dentinal tubules. Once we had identified the problem and arrested the habit, we were able to find solutions in resolving the created problem. This sensitivity requires not only exposed dentin but also open dentinal tubules. Is your patient habitually consuming highly acidic products, sucking on lemons or acidic candies, or have an eating disorder and vomit? The acids resulting from these activities can remove the smear layer, contributing to open dentinal tubules in already exposed dentin - and are also associated with erosive wear that contributes to exposed dentin.

I Need Relief Now!

Many of our patients experience sensitivity with a mechanical stimuli or cold air and water, which is very problematic when coming to the dental office. Colgate Anywhere Anytime Serum provides relief in 1 minute with a fingertip application. The serum contains arginine and calcium carbonate technology. These ingredients are deposited on exposed dentin surfaces, resulting in tubule occlusion. This serum gives great results in the office prior to dental care and it can be sent home with the patient. The ability to use the serum on sensitive teeth prior to preventative routine care makes treatment comfortable for patients, and can help keep patients coming back regularly, as opposed to staying away due to the fear of the sensitivity they many times experienced while getting routine care. Many practices have also chosen to provide the serum to their patient to take home for further use when needed.

Giving your patient a regular use product can also help to reduce sensitivity for long-term effects is another option. Colgate PreviDent 5000 Sensitive is proven to reduce sensitivity and also to help remineralize root caries. You can stock this prescription strength toothpaste in your office to market to your patients or patients can receive a prescription that they can fill at many local pharmacies.

While it may be difficult to have some of the product conversations, getting suggestions and direction from our colleagues, is always a great resource.


Sensitivity does not have to be a monotonous conversation. It must, however, be on going. New habits create problems, which leads to new conversations. It is important we know what products are available to our patients, to effectively help relieve sensitivity for the now and for the future.

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