Toothpaste Doesn't Prevent Enamel Erosion or Help With Sensitivity, Study Finds

Toothpaste does little to prevent enamel erosion, study indicates. Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

The toothpaste aisle may be full of tubes that claim to help with sensitivity and prevent enamel erosion, but these promises fall flat, according to a new study.

Related: Drinking Wine Could Keep Your Teeth Healthy and Prevent Gum Disease

Tooth sensitivity and enamel loss may seem like two separate problems, but the issues are related, according to study co-author and researcher Samira Helena João-Souza of the University of São Paulo's School of Dentistry in Brazil.

"Research has shown that dentin exposed with open tubules causes hypersensitivity, and erosion is one of the causes of dentin exposure. This is why, in our study, we analyzed toothpastes that claim to be anti-erosive and/or desensitizing," she said in a statement.

In other words, enamel acts as a protective covering for the hard tissue known as dentin that lays under the surface. Dentin has small tubules, or holes, that allow heat and cold to stimulate nerves inside the tooth, according to the American Dental Association. This is why enamel erosion can make eating ice cream painful for some.

For the study, researchers tested regular fluoride toothpaste and those advertising to be anti-erosive or desensitizing on samples of enamel from molars. They found that none of the toothpastes protected against enamel erosion on their own. Instead, the study authors stress that toothpaste, treatment prescribed by the dentist and dietary changes are all needed when it comes to keeping teeth healthy.

"Dental erosion is multifactorial. It has to do with brushing, and above all, with diet. Food and drink are increasingly acidic as a result of industrial processing," Souza said.

To keep your teeth healthy, many dentists suggest avoiding acidic beverages like lemonade, soda and especially wine.

"The acidity in wine makes teeth more susceptible to stains, and white wine is generally more acidic," Irwin Smigel, DDS, told Prevention in a story published in 2013. "This acid can leave teeth vulnerable to stains from darkly colored food."

This may be a good time to rethink your drinking habits.