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What is Whitening Toothpaste?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 17, 2024
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Whitening toothpaste is an oral hygiene product designed to remove stains, and make teeth appear whiter. It typically contains an abrasive ingredient to scrub stains, as well as ingredients such as baking soda, peroxide, or sodium tripolyphosphate, which can help to dissolve stains. While whitening toothpaste can help remove and prevent surface stains, it does not truly whiten teeth or change their color like whitening treatments do.

Whitening treatments may be performed at home or at the dentist, and typically contain relatively high levels of hydrogen peroxide that is applied to the teeth for a longer period of time. The peroxide is actually able to change the underlying color of the teeth, and make them appear many shades whiter. Though many whitening toothpastes claim to whiten teeth, in truth, they are simply removing some of the stains. This does not mean they are not beneficial, however.

Whitening toothpaste uses its included active ingredients to remove stains and prevent new ones from forming, as well as to prevent cavities. The abrasive ingredients included in the toothpaste act like tiny polishers for the teeth. For most people, it is perfectly safe to use a whitening toothpaste every day. Some people experience tooth and gum sensitivity when using whitening toothpastes, however, so it may then be a good idea to switch off, and use a non-whitening toothpaste every few days.

For people who want especially white teeth, or whose teeth are particularly stained, it might be beneficial to begin with a tooth-whitening treatment at home or at the dentist. Then, whitening toothpaste may be used to keep teeth looking their best and to prevent new stains from forming. Almost all major brands of toothpaste make a whitening version, and they are almost always the same price as regular toothpaste.

Whitening toothpaste will have the best effects if used in conjunction with good oral hygiene practices. Teeth should be brushed two to three times per day, and flossed once per day. Regular cleanings every six months from a dentist are very important. In addition, knowing foods that cause staining can be helpful; these include red wine, tea, coffee, and cola drinks, among others. After consuming these foods, it is a good idea to rinse the mouth out with water, both to remove some of the potential staining ingredients from the teeth, and to cut down on the levels of acidity in the mouth, which can contribute to tooth staining.

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Discussion Comments
By Sinbad — On Oct 11, 2011

@alfredo - I have been curious about whitening toothpastes for the exact same reason that if they work why is whitening at the dentist so expensive?

From what I have seen not all whitening toothpastes have caused any unwanted side effects such as discomfort, however, there are particular ones that people have blogged about that did have pretty intense side effects from their toothpaste, so I would check the word of mouth blogs and then decide on your own.

For me, my research has concluded with this article, I think I will find one to do a little bit of preventative staining, especially considering stains also have to do with age and I just had another birthday!

By aLFredo — On Oct 11, 2011

@tolleranza - One of the abrasive ingredients is sodium tripolyphosphate, which could mean pretty much anything to me, but I can tell you that although the term abrasive is used I think it means more chemically abrasive than body scrub type abrasive!

But seeing as how those chemicals are abrasive, what about enamel wear down? I know my dentist is worried about my enamel just from some slight grinding that I do in my sleep, much less from years of using whitening toothpastes.

Has anyone experienced any discomfort that they think is from whitening toothpaste?

I am partially not expecting there to be much discomfort with it because if whitening toothpaste is abrasive, I can only imagine how abrasive teeth whitening procedures done at the dentist office are, and those are done quite often.

By tolleranza — On Oct 10, 2011

I have never really bought whitening toothpaste unless on accident secondary to flashy packaging (yes, I do succumb to bright advertising every now and then).

The reason I didn't is because I knew that whitening treatments at the dentist was hundreds of dollars and even the whitening strips you buy at the store are usually at least fifty dollars, so I figured that there was no way a three to five dollar tube of toothpaste was going to do the trick.

But now reading this article I wonder if I should try some extra whitening toothpaste, so it can at least aid in helping to prevent some stains. I am not a big soda drinker but I always have coffee and I also have red wine every now and then.

I see from the article that there are abrasive ingredients that make up the whitening toothpaste ingredients, but what are these ingredients specifically? The idea of the abrasive ingredient is making me think of exfoliating body scrubs.

By myharley — On Oct 09, 2011

My teeth are very sensitive to hot and cold so I use a sensitive whitening toothpaste on a regular basis. I feel better using a whitening toothpaste hoping that it will at least maintain the color of my teeth and help prevent stains from building up.

A few years ago, I went through my dentist to get some teeth whitening product. First they had a mold of my mouth made. I would put the whitening gel in this flexible mouthpiece for about 30 minutes at a time.

I noticed a much bigger difference using this process to whiten my teeth. Every so often when my teeth start to look yellow again, I will apply the whitening gel again.

I think that using a whitening toothpaste helps keep my teeth whiter for a longer period of time. Once you get used to having really white teeth, it is hard to see yellow teeth when you smile.

By honeybees — On Oct 09, 2011

I have used several different kinds of whitening toothpaste and haven't noticed any difference in one working better than another one.

I usually buy Aquafresh whitening toothpaste because I like the taste and texture of this toothpaste the best. In my experience, all

of the whitening toothpastes work the same.

If you want to really whiten your teeth, I think you need to use something like Crest white strips or use a professional product from your dentist.

By strawCake — On Oct 08, 2011

@ceilingcat - I find that one whitening toothpaste is pretty much as good as the other. But if the baking soda kinds work better for you, that's great.

I've found that the real trick to getting really white teeth is to use a whitening mouthwash with the whitening toothpaste. You use whitening mouthwash before you brush, and I find it makes a really big difference for me. It says on the bottle it helps dislodge stains, which makes the whitening toothpaste more effective.

This does add an extra step to the whole brushing process though. I still like to use my regular antiseptic mouthwash after I brush to prevent cavities. The whitening mouthwash is only for whitening, so it doesn't replace regular mouthwash.

By ceilingcat — On Oct 08, 2011

My favorite whitening toothpaste is the kind with baking soda in it. I find that it works much better for me than any other kind I've tried.

I used to have a few minor stains on my teeth, and using the whitening toothpaste really helps me. I'm a little bit too scared to get a whitening treatment done because my teeth are really sensitive though. Sometimes I think about it because while the whitening toothpaste has improved the overall look of my teeth, I would still like them to be a bit whiter.

By SteamLouis — On Oct 07, 2011

@TreeMan-- There is a new kind of toothpaste out now that I like. It makes my teeth super white in just a few minutes while I'm brushing. It's pretty amazing to see the difference in the color of my teeth before and after brushing. The only downside is that the whitening effect lasts for about four hours. That's what the label says anyway, although it seems to last longer for me, more like six hours.

It works well when I brush in the morning, after lunch and at night. It's especially good when you're going out on a date and you want pearly teeth for it. I know it would be better to go to the dentist and get them permanently whitened. But considering how affordable this toothpaste is, I think it's a good alternative and it makes teeth much whiter than regular whitening toothpastes.

By ysmina — On Oct 06, 2011

I drink a lot of tea and coffee and this causes my teeth to become stained over time. I have tried the whitening version of my regular toothpaste, but I didn't see much of a difference with it. Then I bought a whitening toothpaste made especially for coffee drinkers and smokers and that really worked. I use it every night and in just a couple of weeks my teeth became really white. Even my friends noticed it and commented on it.

I guess not every brand makes a good whitening toothpaste, especially when they make different varieties of toothpastes. But brands that specialize in ones that whiten seem to be the best.

By TreeMan — On Oct 06, 2011

What does everyone here consider the best tooth whitening toothpaste? I have tried a bunch of different kinds, and I can say I really haven't seen much of a difference in any of them. I know some people swear by their toothpaste, though.

Personally, I have always used Colgate whitening toothpaste, just because that is what I grew up with. I like the fact that their cap flips open instead of unscrewing. It's a pretty superficial purpose, but it's still important to me. I like their flavors better, too.

By titans62 — On Oct 05, 2011

Has anyone here ever tried any of the sensitive whitening toothpastes? Recently I have had sensitive gums, and I can't use a lot of toothpastes, especially the kind with the crystals. I am going to the dentist soon to get it checked out. I brush regularly and don't chew tobacco or anything like that that would lead to gum disease, so I'm not sure what it is.

How well do the other toothpastes work? What makes them sensitive?

By cardsfan27 — On Oct 04, 2011

I have tried a lot of different whitening toothpastes, and at least in my experience, the kinds with the crystal-like things in them seem to work the best. I guess it is the extra abrasiveness in addition to the whitening formula.

This might seem kind of gross, but I read something a while back that the crystals are actually some sort of tiny insect that has a hard exoskeleton. They put them in with the toothpaste to give that texture. Obviously, you aren't going to get any diseases or illnesses from them, so it's nothing to get worried about, but it's an interesting trivia question.

By matthewc23 — On Oct 04, 2011

I always thought whitening toothpaste was actually supposed to make teeth whiter. It is a pretty misleading name, since it just cleans teeth like regular toothpaste.

Any time you go to the store to buy toothpaste anymore, the choices are kind of overwhelming. I have always used whitening toothpastes just because they are the most common kind. I always felt like they kept my teeth whiter, but I guess that was mostly due to brushing habits.

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