Like it or not, your smile can make a big first impression (hell, there is research to prove it). When your teeth are looking a little dull and dull—perhaps from one too many cups of coffee or glass of wine—the best whitening toothpaste is on your side. Although they are much less powerful than at home whitening kit and professional whitening treatments, they are a simple and affordable solution to achieve more pearly white colors over time.
“Whitening toothpaste can be effective in removing surface stains and helping to brighten the overall appearance of teeth,” says Dr. Ben El Chami, DMD. “They work by using mild abrasives and chemicals, such as silica or baking soda, to remove superficial stains. Some also contain enzymes or bleaches, such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, to help break down or lighten deeper stains,” he adds.
And because they contain a lower concentration of active whitening ingredients that can be sensitizing, these toothpastes are typically a gentler brightening method for those who prefer it.
While perusing your local pharmacy aisle, Dr. El Chami says to look for whitening toothpastes that do double duty to keep teeth healthy, via ingredients like fluoride and xylitol. “Despite being a somewhat controversial ingredient, fluoride has been widely scientifically proven to be safe in strengthening teeth against cavities,” he mentions. “Meanwhile, xylitol is a natural sweetener that helps reduce bacteria and prevent plaque build-up.”
What’s more, it’s a good idea to look for opportunities that carry American Dental Association’s (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. (The organization only accepts products made with fluoride.) “This seal indicates that the toothpaste has been evaluated by the ADA and found to be safe and effective for its intended use,” Dr. El Chami explains. “If you want to use a product without the ADA seal, be sure to talk to your dentist first.”
To guide you on your journey to a whiter smile, we consulted Dr. El Chami on his favorite picks and sifted through tons of top-rated products to compile the eight best whitening toothpastes below. From all-natural choices to gentle choices formulated specifically for people with sensitive mouths, these toothpastes will actually make you excited to brush.
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Colgate Total Whitening Toothpaste
|Key ingredients||Stannous fluoride, hydrated silica, citric acid|
|Size||4.8 oz., pack of 2|
Best Natural Whitening Toothpaste
Tom’s of Maine
Simply white toothpaste
|Key ingredients||Sodium fluoride, hydrated silica|
Another great natural option
Naturally whitening fluoride toothpaste
|Key ingredients||Sodium fluoride, hydrated silica, calcium carbonate, xylitol, coconut oil|
Best tested whitening toothpaste
Optic White Advanced toothpaste, 3-pack
|Key ingredients||Sodium fluoride, 2% hydrogen peroxide|
Best whitening toothpaste with baking soda
Arm & Hammer
Dental care toothpaste, pack of 3
|Key ingredients||Baking powder, sodium fluoride|
|Size||6.3 oz., pack of 3|
Best whitening toothpaste for sensitive teeth
Pronamel Gentle Whitening Toothpaste
|Key ingredients||Hydrated silica, sodium fluoride|
|Size||4 oz., pack of 3|
Best whitening toothpaste for sensitive gums
Whitening toothpaste for bleeding gums
|Key ingredients||Stannous fluoride, hydrated silica|
Best whitening toothpaste tablets
Toothpaste bits, pack of 2
|Key ingredients||Xylitol, Nano-Hydroxyapatite (N-Hap), calcium carbonate|
|Size||62 tablets in a jar|
What are some of the main causes of yellowing teeth and stains?
Tooth discoloration can be caused by a number of factors. About Cleveland Clinic, some of the most common culprits include consumption of wine, tea and coffee and smoking or chewing tobacco. Tooth discoloration can also be the result of factors such as genetics, use of certain medications, or poor dental hygiene (translation: don’t forget to brush or floss consistently).
How effective is teeth whitening?
“It is important to keep in mind that the effectiveness of whitening toothpastes can be limited and they should not be used as a substitute for professional teeth whitening treatments,” says Dr. El Chami. “Over-the-counter whitening toothpastes are not as potent as prescription gels or in-office treatments, especially when it comes to removing deep stains or brightening the natural color of teeth.”
“For whiter teeth, it’s also important to maintain good oral hygiene habits and to see your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings,” he adds.
What about charcoal toothpastes? How effective are they at removing stains?
“Charcoal toothpaste contains activated charcoal, which is a fine powder made from coconut shells, bamboo or other natural materials that have been treated to increase their porosity and surface area,” explains Dr. El Chami. “These types of formulas have become more and more popular in recent years as a natural replacement for traditional whitening toothpaste. However, there is not enough research to confirm the effectiveness of charcoal as a whitening agent. It is important to consult your dentist before you use charcoal toothpaste, especially if you have dental problems or are undergoing dental treatment,” he adds.
Are there certain ingredients in whitening toothpastes that can cause sensitivity?
Yes. “The most common bleaching agents are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide,” explains Dr. El Chami. “The higher the concentration of the bleaching agent, the more effective the toothpaste will be at whitening the teeth. However, it is important to be aware that toothpastes with higher concentrations of bleaching agents can cause more tooth sensitivity.” And while typically milder, abrasives like silica or baking soda can also sensitize nerves “if the concentration is too high or if the toothpaste is used too often,” he says. Similarly, “citric acid can erode tooth enamel and cause tooth sensitivity if used in high concentrations .”
If you have sensitive teeth or gums, look for toothpastes that are specially formulated to be gentle, says Dr. El Chami notes. And remember, “it’s always best to consult with your dentist before starting a whitening treatment,” he says.
How often should you use a whitening toothpaste?
“This depends on the specific product at hand and the condition of your teeth,” says Dr. El Chami. “In general, it is recommended to use a whitening toothpaste in place of your regular toothpaste, twice a day, as part of your regular oral hygiene routine.”
“Keep in mind that while whitening toothpastes can help brighten your teeth, they can also cause tooth sensitivity and wear if overused,” he warns.
When should I expect to see results?
“The amount of time it takes to see changes from using a whitening toothpaste can fluctuate depending on the specific product you use, the condition of your teeth, and how often you use the toothpaste,” says Dr. El Chami. “Some people may see results within a few days of starting to use a whitening toothpaste, others may take several weeks or longer to see a noticeable difference.”
Dr. Ben El Chami is co-founder and general dentist of dntl bar in New York City.
Sam Peters is a seasoned business writer and editor with over five years of experience covering fashion, beauty and lifestyle topics. For this roundup, she consulted a dentist about his recommendations for the best whitening toothpastes, how to use them, and what to look for when shopping. She also considered a number of top-rated whitening toothpastes on the market, rating each on their offered ingredients and customer feedback.
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