Are Whitening Toothpastes Good for You?

Published:November 30th, 2011

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There are lots of different brands of whitening toothpastes on the market, and these tend to use either special abrasives to gently polish away surface stains, or they use chemicals such as sodium tripolyphosphate which act by breaking down and dissolving the stains. These types of toothpaste need to be used regularly twice a day, and it typically takes between two and four weeks for any effects to become visible. However they are very mild and can only remove some of the staining created by drinking tea or coffee or by eating highly coloured foods. Some of these toothpastes also contain a chemical called blue covarine which creates an optical illusion by adhering to the tooth surface making it appear less yellow. Whitening toothpastes do not contain bleach.

Whitening toothpastes are generally considered safe for daily use, but if you use them excessively there are worries that they could damage tooth enamel, especially if they contain abrasive substances. Some clinical studies1 have shown whitening toothpastes to be mildly effective at removing extrinsic or surface staining, and have failed to show any statistically significant wear to tooth enamel. It’s best to choose a toothpaste which has received the seal of approval from a reputable dental organisation as it will have been extensively tested to ensure it is effective at removing surface stains whilst protecting dental health. If you have sensitive teeth then pick a whitening toothpaste which has been specially formulated to combat sensitivity.

The effect of whitening toothpaste will not be very dramatic. These toothpastes are estimated to lighten stained teeth by just one shade whereas home whitening kits or treatments in your dental office will lighten teeth by anything between three and eight shades. You can enhance the effect of the tooth whitening toothpaste by using it in conjunction with a whitening mouthwash, as some of these contain a very mild solution of peroxide. If you choose to use the mouthwash make sure you follow the instructions correctly as you shouldn’t use too much or swish it around for too long.

Another way of slightly whitening teeth is to have them professionally cleaned at your dental office. The hygienist will scrape away any tartar which has accumulated on the teeth and will finish the treatment by polishing them. Having teeth professionally polished gently removes some of the surface staining making them appear a little whiter.

If you don’t achieve the desired effect through using whitening toothpaste then you may need to use a home teeth whitening kit or may want to consider having a professional whitening treatment at your dental surgery. Many people achieve good results through using home whitening kits, and provided they are used correctly they should be perfectly safe for anyone who has good oral health. You should always have a full checkup with your dentist before using a home whitening kit.
It is difficult to say if teeth whitening toothpastes are good for you, but reputable brands are unlikely to cause any significant damage to enamel provided they are not over used.

1.    Joiner, A., Pickles, M., Matheson, J., Weader, E., Noblet, L. and Huntington, E. (2002), Whitening toothpastes: effects on tooth stain and enamel. International Dental Journal, 52: 424–430. doi: 10.1111/j.1875-595X.2002.tb00732.x

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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