How effective are whitening toothpastes?

Generally whitening toothpastes utilize various abrasives to remove surface (extrinsic) stains from teeth. The FDA regulates toothpaste as a cosmetic product and will allow any toothpaste that can remove a stain to make a "whitening" claim. This should not be confused with peroxide-based teeth whitening products that can reduce or eliminate more internal (intrinsic) stains which produce a deeper discoloration.

The overuse of whitening toothpastes has resulted in excessive wear to the enamel of teeth because of the abrasives used in some cases. Patients with cosmetic composite filings and porcelain restorations (e.g., veneers, crowns) should avoid the use of these products because of the capacity for the finish or glaze to be lost in the same way that the overuse of abrasive cleaners can take the finish off your bathtub.

The best way to keep your teeth white is to keep them healthy. A healthy mouth forms less stain-promoting, unhealthy plaque that can discolor teeth quite rapidly. Regular dental cleaning with teeth polishing performed by the dental hygienist will ensure a safe polished finish to teeth and dental restorations.
Whitening toothpastes contain ingredients that help remove surface stains only. Unlike tooth-whitening bleaches, whitening toothpastes do not affect stains below the tooth's surface. For that reason, toothpastes do not get teeth as white as bleaches do.

Whitening toothpastes can be purchased over the counter, and several have received the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. ADA-Accepted whitening toothpastes contain polishing or chemical agents that help remove surface stains through gentle polishing or some other non-bleaching action. Some toothpastes contain other agents, such as enzymes, that help dissolve surface stains.
Todd A. Welch, DMD
Unfortunately, tooth whitening toothpastes can only return our teeth back to their original color. The toothpaste contains very gentle abrasives that rub against the stain and gradually remove it. Why Teeth Whitening Toothpaste May Not Whiten Your Teeth If you don't drink coffee much or chew tobacco, there's a good chance that your teeth aren't stained at all. In this case, if you use tooth whitening toothpaste, you probably won't notice a difference in how white your teeth are. Also, in the last ten years, it seems that all toothpastes are "teeth whitening". Chance are, you've already been brushing with "tooth whitening" toothpaste. Continuing to brush with "tooth whitening" toothpaste isn't going to make your teeth any whiter since you've already removed the stains with previous tubes of "teeth whitening" toothpaste.
Probably not as effective as people hope. Whitening toothpastes contain mild abrasives that help remove staining from the surface of one's teeth. However, most discoloration occurs below the surface of the tooth, which is why whitening toothpastes give you marginal results.

The best whitening procedures (and there are several) are available from your dentist. If you are disappointed with "whitening" toothpastes, ask your dentist what he or she recommends.
Whitening toothpaste can make some improvement in the color of your teeth. It works as an abrasive to rub away and remove stains from your teeth. It cannot change discoloration due to stains that go below the tooth surface. It may not be as effective in whitening your teeth as dental treatments or other, over-the-counter products. However, if you have had your teeth whitened, it can help maintain those results for longer periods of time by keeping your teeth free of stain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.