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Potassium Nitrate Dental Uses: Relieving Your Tooth Sensitivity

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

If you regularly feel a sharp burst of pain after eating hot or cold food or sweets, you may have dentin hypersensitivity (DH). This condition occurs when the inner layer of a tooth becomes exposed and more sensitive to stimuli, explains the FDI World Dental Federation. DH can be uncomfortable and difficult for your dentist to diagnose. That's where potassium nitrate comes in‚ it's a desensitizing agent that can help people with this type of tooth sensitivity. Read on to learn more about potassium nitrate dental uses for DH.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

What causes tooth sensitivity to begin with? According to the American Dental Association (ADA), fractured teeth, gum disease and tooth decay can all lead to tooth sensitivity. Any one of these factors may cause wearing away of the tooth enamel and gum tissue, exposing the tooth root and the next layer of the tooth, known as the dentin. Normally, the enamel and dentin will protect and cover the underlying tooth nerves and tissues; however, if these outer layers are lost, the tooth's nerves can become more reactive.

Potassium Nitrate Dental Uses

As a study in The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) notes, potassium nitrate is a salt compound commonly found in toothpastes and mouthwashes. The most common potassium nitrate dental uses involve treating DH, as the compound is known to help reduce tooth sensitivity by calming the nerve fibers in the teeth.

The JADA study states that dental products containing potassium nitrate as an active ingredient work by blocking the transmission of pain from your tooth to your brain. Potassium nitrate calms the tooth's nerve activity so that you feel less discomfort when eating hot, cold, sweet or sticky foods.

Potassium Nitrate vs. Potassium Fluoride

Potassium fluoride is another compound that has dental uses, but it's not the same as potassium nitrate. While potassium nitrate may be found in sensitivity toothpastes and mouthwashes, potassium fluoride is sometimes found in salt.

In areas around the world where water fluoridation isn't possible, some people consume salt that has been fortified with potassium fluoride, explains a review in the International Journal of Oral Health and Medical Research. As the ADA explains, fluoride‚ whether it's provided in tap water or in toothpaste ‚Äî works to strengthen the teeth and guard against tooth decay. So, like other fluoride compounds, potassium fluoride can help prevent cavities, while potassium nitrate can help ease DH.

How to Relieve Tooth Sensitivity

There are a variety of commercially available toothpastes that contain potassium nitrate and high levels of fluoride. Speak with your dentist about the right toothpaste formula for your particular needs.

If you have DH, your dentist may also recommend the following treatments and at-home practices, as the Mayo Clinic outlines:

  • In-office fluoride applications on the exposed or weakened areas of the teeth to help strengthen the enamel and reduce sensitivity
  • A gum graft procedure, which will replace the lost gum tissue and protect the exposed part of your tooth root
  • Reducing your intake of acidic foods and drinks, which can wear down the enamel over time and cause sensitivity
  • Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and brushing with gentle strokes

Tooth sensitivity is a common, treatable condition. Proper home care using desensitizing products recommended by your dentist may help ease your symptoms. Speak with your dentist or dental hygienist to discuss the best treatment options and products for you.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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