How to Choose the Right Whitening Toothpaste

A whitening toothpaste is an over-the-counter (OTC) teeth whitening product available for patients who desire to whiten their teeth. Its main function is to remove surface stains, such as those caused by drinking coffee/tea or smoking, but it cannot change the tooth color within the enamel.

Selecting the best toothpaste is extremely important in the long term. Using incorrect toothpastes can cause enamel loss and wear, and damage that cannot be recovered.  The technique we use to brush our teeth also plays an important role, and one needs to understand the protocol for proper brushing.

Whitening toothpastes can appear to whiten teeth slightly by abrasively removing surface stains, but they can’t change the natural color of your teeth or lighten a stain that goes deeper than a tooth’s surface. Some in-vitro studies report that whitening toothpastes were cytotoxic to the cells, as well genotoxic.

Whitening toothpastes contain abrasives that polish teeth, in addition to chemicals that help break down or dissolve stains on the surface. On the other hand, these abrasives and chemicals can contribute to enamel damage. Even small enamel damage every day accumulates over a period of time.

Every patient is different, and teeth that already have enamel wear and recession are more likely to be affected by the abrasives found in whitening toothpastes.  It is best to consult your dentist for a recommendation and to find out which toothpaste works for you.

What to Look for in a Whitening Toothpaste

Graph showing abrasiveness of whitening toothpaste published by Ultradent Products, Inc., 2016

Ultradent Products’ Relative Dentin Abrasion Graph of Whitening Toothpaste

  1. Look for a brand that has a seal of approval from a reputable dental organization—such as the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. This seal indicates that the toothpaste is safe and effective at removing surface stains.
  1. The amount of fluoride contained in the toothpaste is the most important part, as fluoride strengthens your enamel and protects it against acids.
  1. A minimal amount of abrasiveness in the toothpaste is crucial. Again, teeth-whitening toothpastes are more abrasive as they are designed to remove stains from your teeth, yet they do not change the color of your enamel.
  1. Look through research articles to receive some guidance. However, your dentist should really evaluate your dentition and suggest the best toothpaste for you, as everyone’s needs are different.


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