In this post, our in-house dentist Dr. Chhaya Chauhan explains the things you should know if you’re considering a whitening toothpaste and provides a list of purchase options for you to choose from.
She also explains why whitening toothpaste may not quite work the way its name suggests.
If you want to jump straight to our best whitening toothpaste recommendations click here, but we strongly advise you read over the background information first (there isn’t much of it!)
Our top 5 picks for the best whitening toothpaste
As we explain below regular toothpaste can be just as effective as whitening toothpaste, in-fact it can even be a better choice if it’s not as abrasive.
It’s certainly not worth spending over the odds for a whitening toothpaste, and it’s not really possible to say definitively which is ‘the best’.
However, if you really are set on trying one, here are some good choices to get you started.
1. Crest Pro Health Advanced Deep Clean
Crest Pro Health is a toothpaste that helps protect your teeth to keep them healthy and strong.
The included fluoride helps fight against cavities and decay.
With a clean mint flavor, the paste is lovely to use and gives a nice freshness to the breath.
It provides a gentle and good overall clean that will help remove external staining on the tooth surface.
|Crest Pro Health Advanced Deep Clean||9,826 Reviews||$20.92||View on Amazon|
2. Arm & Hammer PeroxiCare Deep Clean
Arm & Hammer Deep Clean is a great toothpaste that has the active ingredient of bicarbonate soda and fluoride.
It is a good all-round toothpaste combating most of the major areas such as gum disease and cavities.
|Arm & Hammer PeroxiCare Deep Clean||14,177 Reviews||$13.90||View on Amazon|
3. Sensodyne Pronamel Gentle Whitening
Sensodyne Pronamel Gentle Whitening is great at reducing sensitivity as it contains potassium nitrate. It’s a nice toothpaste from Sensodyne, which is known for its products for sensitive teeth.
|Sensodyne Pronamel Gentle Whitening||39,378 Reviews||$17.51||View on Amazon|
4. Tom’s of Maine Fluoride-Free Antiplaque & Whitening
For those looking for a more natural toothpaste formula, this is it.
Tom’s Of Main are Certified B Corp, so social responsibility is at the heart of what they do.
This paste does not contain fluoride and the ingredients are naturally derived.
Xylitol is included as a natural sweetener and the paste offers a peppermint taste.
|Tom's of Maine Fluoride-Free Antiplaque & Whitening||40,543 Reviews||$15.98 $8.58||View on Amazon|
5. Colgate Optic White
Colgate Optic White contains some hydrogen peroxide, which is the active ingredient in tooth whitening kits.
The amount of hydrogen peroxide is very low and will have nowhere near the effects of a proper home whitening kit administered by your dentist.
It also contains a good amount of fluoride.
|Colgate Optic White||5,645 Reviews||$29.68||View on Amazon|
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Whitening Toothpaste Buyer’s Guide & FAQ
The following is a detailed guide with all the key information you need to know about toothpastes that suggest they can whiten your teeth.
Does whitening toothpaste work?
Whitening toothpaste does not actually whiten teeth.*
It contains abrasive agents that end up removing the surface stains from teeth, that may have dulled the natural tooth color. Therefore teeth can appear whiter after having used a whitening toothpaste, because the stains have been removed or reduced.
Given this, it would be more accurate to refer to it as stain removal toothpaste rather than whitening toothpaste.
This type of toothpaste may work well for things like tea and coffee stains but not for teeth that have a base color of yellow.
There are some toothpastes that are even more abrasive to remove more stubborn stains, such as smokers’ stains on teeth. Use of such abrasive toothpaste over a long period of time can actually have a damaging effect on the precious enamel of teeth and subsequently increase staining.
Some toothpastes contain a bluish tinge chemical; this can give an illusion of whiter teeth, without actually changing the tooth color at all.
Only tooth whitening agents can change the baseline color of teeth. Toothpastes cannot do this job.
*There are a select number of toothpastes that include bleaches/peroxide agents that can actually whiten the natural color of the teeth. The vast majority do not inculde such. Those that do tend to have a lower concentration and should be used with caution as bleaching agents can damage the gum tissue.
Using an electric toothbrush + regular toothpaste can be just as effective at removing stains
A great way to keep your teeth looking nice and white and healthy is simply to brush them well with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day.
This will help to prevent the build-up of common stains from things such as tea and coffee.
Many people struggle with or don’t know how to brush correctly using the modified bass technique (using a rotating motion at the gum line). If you’re not sure what the correct method is, see our post on how to brush your teeth properly.
If you do find it difficult to use the correct brushing technique, an electric toothbrush can help (although it isn’t essential) because the powered movement of the brush head aids brushing, maximizing plaque removal.
Using a fluoride toothpaste twice a day with the correct brushing technique will be more effective at preventing and removing stains than brushing less frequently with a whitening toothpaste and not using the right technique.
Whitening toothpaste tested against non-whitening toothpaste
In June 2018, a UK TV program called Supershoppers tested how well various toothpastes, both ‘whitening’ and regular, removed tea stains from perspex teeth.
The tests found that the top 4 performing whitening toothpastes only removed 50% of the stains.
They also tested toothpastes that don’t make whitening claims, and on average they performed almost as well as the whitening ones, removing 42.5% of stains on average, compared to the 47% average of the whitening pastes.
The non-whitening ones are also less abrasive, meaning they have less chance of damaging your teeth.
You can also have stains removed by going to the hygienist
Going to see a dental hygienist regularly can be very beneficial. The hygienist is a dental professional qualified in cleaning teeth and gums.
The hygienist will clean your teeth and gums, removing plaque, calculus and stains. This will help your teeth to look white and healthy thanks to the absence of any unsightly stains and build-up.
The hygienist can be just as effective —or in-fact more effective — at removing stains from your teeth than a product bought online or in-store.
However, regardless of whether stains are removed by the hygienist or a stain removal product, the base color of the teeth will remain the same unless it is bleached with a peroxide.
It is this bleaching that can be truly referred to as teeth whitening.
What ingredients should I look out for in whitening toothpaste – which are good, which are bad?
Below are some of the ingredients you may see listed on whitening toothpaste. Here is an explanation of what each ingredient does.
- Covarine – creates an optical illusion of whiter teeth by adding a blue tinge
- Bicarbonate soda – helps to remove stains
- Fluoride – a must have of any toothpaste. It helps fight against cavities, which after all is the main reason for cleaning your teeth
- Novamin can help to prevent sensitivity
- Peroxides – these are the chemicals that will actually make a difference and change the base color of the tooth. For safety reasons its concentration in toothpaste tends to be very low.
The following are abrasive agents — you should pay extra attention to these as brushing with abrasive toothpaste too often can be harmful to your teeth:
- Hydrated aluminum oxides – remove surface stains
- Magnesium/calcium carbonate – removes surface stains
- Silica – another abrasive agent which removes surface stains
We cover toothpaste ingredients more generally in our article toothpaste ingredients: what’s safe and what isn’t?
Are whitening toothpastes worth it, and are they safe?
Yes and no. If your teeth have a good base color already and you just have some minor extrinsic stains, e.g from tea or coffee, then a whitening toothpaste can help to remove them. However, if you have a buildup of plaque and calculus then you would need to see a hygienist to have them professionally removed.
Sometimes the abrasive agents in these toothpastes can actually make sensitivity worse so you must be careful of what you are using, and how often.
If the base color of your teeth is yellow, then you may need professional tooth whitening to help brighten the color of your teeth.
The problem is that it is very difficult for the untrained eye to differentiate which type of discoloration you have so it is best to seek advice from your dental professional before using anything.
Because of the nature of abrasive toothpastes, it is especially important that you do not use them for a prolonged period without consulting your dentist.
Do toothpastes for sensitive teeth work?
Sensitive toothpaste can work for the short term as long as you continually use it. There are certain ingredients such as novamine or potassium nitrate that can help as long as you keep using the toothpaste.
Rather than relying too much on a sensitive toothpaste, though, it makes more sense to try to discover the cause of the sensitivity.
Only treating tooth sensitivity without knowing the cause of it can be dangerous. For example, if the source is a cavity and a person decides to try to treat it using toothpaste, the cavity may get worse and lead to a life-threatening dental abscess.
Similarly, using a whitening product, be that toothpaste or something else, can also exacerbate existing dental issues.
Always consult with your dentist as to the source of the sensitivity and use the toothpaste they recommend.
What else should I be aware of?
Like with anything it is important to do your research before making a decision to whiten your teeth — don’t just dive in and start using a whitening product without taking the due care necessary.
A dental professional can give you good advice about what the best product is for you, even if it is a simple toothpaste recommendation at your next check up.
Have you used a whitening toothpaste?
What has your experience been like?
Let us know what you think about these products and let others who may well be considering purchasing know your opinions before they do.