Whitening Toothpastes- What is Their Role in Teeth Whitening?

Whitening Toothpastes | Teeth Whitening FAQs

The supermarkets and pharmacies now offer an enormous selection of toothpastes, mostly well-known brands produced by highly-respected companies. One company might produce a dozen styles of toothpaste, ranging from low-fluoride, low mint formulas for children, right through to more abrasive formulas for smokers.

These days you’ll see a large number of toothpastes that are formulated with whitening in mind.

In some situations, a whitening toothpaste will definitely help to improve the lustre of a person’s teeth. The slightly more abrasive formula of these toothpastes makes it easier to remove soft surface stains which may be contributing to the discolouration of the teeth. The promise of a supermarket-purchased whitening solution will often provide motivation for people to brush their teeth more frequently and more thoroughly, which of course means their teeth (and gums) will be cleaner and healthier, and will probably look brighter.

However, in many (most?) cases, a whitening toothpaste won’t improve the brightness of discoloured teeth, for several reasons.

Not all discoloured teeth are caused by soft, superficial staining of the enamel. If the surface stains are stubborn, or the discolouration is not caused by food and beverage stains, a whitening toothpaste simply won’t work.

Some whitening toothpastes are marketed so effectively that a person could be forgiven for thinking that the toothpaste contains a powerful bleaching agent that dissolves stains on contact. The truth is, Australian Standards don’t allow strong peroxide or bleach formulas to be put into toothpastes. Any whitening agent incorporated into the toothpaste is very low strength: the bleaching action of toothpastes is much less powerful than that of dentist-issued whitening gels, if indeed the toothpaste contains any whitening agent.

It’s also important to note that a whitening toothpaste does not have very long to act on teeth each day. Most people will brush twice daily for two minutes: a total of four minutes of ‘whitening time’. Most people rinse after brushing, diluting or completely removing all traces of the whitening toothpaste from the mouth. In contrast, home-whitening kits (which contain a 10 – 15% whitening gel) are used overnight (6 to 8 hours) for up to a week to achieve the desired whitening result. It doesn’t make sense that four minutes of toothbrushing per day can ever hope to compete with 18 to 56 hours of high-strength whitening gel.

There is certainly nothing to lose in trying a whitening toothpaste, and if you are fortunate you may even see a reduction in stains on your teeth. Just understand that a whitening toothpaste will have limitations, and will not be the solution for everyone.