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    Toothpastes for dry mouth and lips

    Do toothpastes for sensitive teeth encourage chelitis and dry mouth?

    Dry mouth and dry lips are a common complaint from postmenopausal women. These patients seek dermatologic assistance because this is an extremely challenging condition to treat. Toothpaste selection is important in the treatment of dry mouth and dry lips, but the sensitive teeth formulations do not appear to be problematic.

    Toothpastes for sensitive teeth are designed to seal dentine tubules and reduce tooth sensitivity through the use of nanoparticle hydroxyappatite. The nanoparticle hydroxyappatite is intended to increase the transport of calcium back into the dentin tubules and reduce sensitivity. An older formulation of toothpaste for sensitive teeth was based on strontium chloride. In this toothpaste, the strontium chloride precipitated from the toothpaste along with phosphate and calcium from the saliva in the dentin tubules. With continued use, more precipitation occurred eventually plugging the tubules and preventing pain.

    Tooth sensitivity in an aging population arises because of gum recession that exposes the tooth roots.  These roots are covered with a soft protective material known as cementum, which is easily softened by acids and can be removed by abrasives. Acids are present in foods, especially soft drinks, sport drinks, and fruit juices. Wine, salad dressings and vinegar are also highly acidic foods that are damaging to the teeth until rinsed thoroughly with saliva. Once the cementum is removed, pathways connecting the tooth to the nerve are open allowing for sensitivity.

    These tooth sensitivity toothpastes do not appear to be operative in persons with dry mouth and dry lips. Flavoring agents such as cinnamon and peppermint may be more important in the formulation for mouth and lip conditions than the tooth sensitivity ingredients.

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    Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D.
    Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., is a consulting professor of dermatology, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C. She is investigator, ...

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