For an estimated 1 in 8 Americans, sensitive teeth are a real problem. While the condition itself has many causes, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association, it most frequently affects people between the ages of 18-44, with women nearly twice as likely to experience sensitivity as men. But there may be good news on the way for sufferers of sensitive teeth, and it’s got ties to a very unlikely source: rust remover. Dr. Gary Lederman of Bellmore, New York has seen this in his patients.
If you’re at all familiar with that can rust remover, you may have heard of an ingredient called potassium oxalate. The compound, which can also be used to bleach wood and textiles, and is also used as a precipitating agent in metal processing, is now being tested for use in protecting sensitive teeth.
Currently undergoing trials at Bristol Dental Hospital in Bristol, England, a new dental patch coated in a potassium oxalate gel is showing promising signs of helping to decrease tooth sensitivity in participants. The patch is said to be like the home ‘white strip’ patches many consumers are already familiar with. Smaller than white strips, the anti-sensitivity patches treat two teeth at a time, and must be worn for ten minutes.
"The potassium oxalate gel works by plugging tiny holes in the dentine of the teeth called tubules, which are full of microscopic nerve fibers," Lederman said. "When exposed to extremes like extreme cold or extreme heat, these nerve fibers react, transmitting pain signals to the brain and cause what we refer to as tooth sensitivity. By plugging these tubules in the dentine with the potassium oxalate gel, extreme temperature changes and other sensitivity triggers are blocked from reaching the nerve fibers, freeing the patient to enjoy their favorite foods and drinks again without the pain of tooth sensitivity standing in their way."
According to Lederman, this concept is not dissimilar to sensitive toothpastes, which use the active ingredient potassium nitrate, however unlike potassium oxalate, potassium nitrate toothpastes only last a short amount of time, and may take several weeks before you notice a difference.
"With the potassium oxalate patch, patients would treat each tooth for ten minutes, but the treatment is said to work immediately, and the results last up to a month per treatment," Lederman said.
This is great news for patients who want immediate relief from both regular and sudden tooth sensitivity.
"Sometimes tooth sensitivity takes us by surprise. and the last thing you want to do is wait weeks to get relief from an unexplained pain that seemingly came out of nowhere," Lederman said. "These patches will hopefully eliminate the waiting game and allow patients to get back to the foods and drinks they enjoyed before tooth sensitivity took some of that enjoyment away."