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Some people look for specialized toothpaste options that target additional dental needs in addition to helping prevent cavities and oral disease. Whitening toothpaste, for example, may improve the appearance of your smile by removing some tooth stains, and it can be found at most places that sell regular toothpaste.
Compared to in-office treatments, whitening toothpaste is a more cost-effective product you can buy over the counter and use at home. It also contains a lower concentration of whitening ingredients, which some people may be sensitive to at the higher levels commonly seen in whitening gel treatments or strips. And experts told us whitening toothpaste works well when used for maintenance after you’ve used another form of whitening.
However, experts said whitening toothpaste’s overall effectiveness is limited, specifically for deep stains or darkening caused by some oral conditions. “You’re not going to notice anything dramatic,” said Dr. Amr Moursi, president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and a professor at the NYU College of Dentistry. “In order to get any true effectiveness, you’re probably going to need something from your dentist.”
If you’re looking to pair your toothbrush — be it an electric toothbrush or a manual option — with whitening toothpaste, we talked to experts about how to shop for different options and how they work. We also rounded up whitening toothpastes with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance based on our experts’ guidance.
Best whitening toothpaste
To recommend the toothpaste options below, we referenced a list of toothpastes with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. We included options that contain fluoride, per dentists’ advice, and offer whitening benefits, according to the brands.
This toothpaste from Crest contains an amino acid formula that the brand says helps heal gums, and it can remove surface stains from teeth. It’s available as a 3.7-ounce tube and has a mint flavor.
Hello Products says its whitening toothpaste is formulated with a calcium mineral blend to help whiten teeth. It also features peppermint and tea tree oil to freshen breath, as well as moisturizing coconut oil, according to the brand. The toothpaste comes in a 4.7-ounce tube.
Colgate’s toothpaste helps remove surface stains and prevent new ones, the brand says. It comes in a 3.3-ounce or 4.8-ounce tube.
Burt’s Bees says this whitening toothpaste is designed with hydrated silica to help remove surface stains from teeth. It comes in a 4.7-ounce tube and is available in a Mountain Mint flavor.
MOON’s toothpaste features hydrogen peroxide to help whiten teeth and has a Fresh Mint flavor. The brand also says it contains Elixir X, a proprietary blend of antioxidants and essential oils that provides benefits like freshening breath. The toothpaste comes in a 4.2-ounce tube.
Tom’s of Maine’s whitening toothpaste contains naturally derived silicas — a type of abrasive — to help remove surface stains from teeth, according to the brand. The toothpaste is available in a Clean Mint flavor and comes in a 4.7-ounce tube.
How to shop for whitening toothpaste
Shopping for whitening toothpaste involves the same checklist experts recommend following when shopping for any kind of adult toothpaste or kids toothpaste — make sure whichever option you choose has the ADA Seal of Acceptance and contains the ingredient fluoride.
Moursi said the ADA Seal of Acceptance is the “gold standard” for choosing dental products — those given the seal have been evaluated by the ADA and have been found to meet specified safety and efficacy requirements. A handful of whitening toothpastes are ADA-accepted, in addition to other select whitening products like some types of whitening strips.
It’s also crucial to purchase whitening toothpaste that’s formulated with fluoride, which experts told us is proven to reduce your risk of cavities. All toothpastes that earn the ADA Seal of Acceptance are made with fluoride and do not contain flavoring agents like sugar that can cause or contribute to tooth decay.
How does whitening toothpaste work?
According to the ADA, whitening toothpaste primarily relies on abrasives to help remove surface stains from your teeth. Dr. Edmond Hewlett, professor at the UCLA School of Dentistry, said all toothpaste is mildly abrasive to scrub teeth clean of dirt and grime — silica and chalk, for example, are two common types of gentle abrasive ingredients found in toothpaste. But whitening toothpaste may be more abrasive than basic types of toothpaste or contain ingredients that specifically target surface stains — sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, is one example.
Hewlett noted that the level and type of abrasives in all ADA-accepted toothpastes are safe and gentle — the ADA ensures so when it’s evaluating products to be given the seal. Other types of abrasives — like charcoal — are not as gentle, and experts recommended avoiding them due to possible adverse effects. There is no charcoal toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance, and a study published in The Journal of The American Dental Association found that there wasn’t enough evidence to support efficacy claims.
Hewlett also said some whitening toothpastes contain peroxide, a bleaching agent. The ADA notes that hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide specifically are commonly used in tooth whitening products. When you brush your teeth with whitening toothpaste that contains peroxide, it can penetrate the enamel and break down discoloration without softening or thinning your teeth, experts told us.
Whitening toothpastes versus other whitening products
While whitening strips or gel are typically applied for 10 minutes or longer, the ADA only recommends brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day. Thus, Hewlett said whitening toothpaste is not in contact with your teeth for a long enough period of time to have the same effect as other at-home whitening products. Whitening toothpaste also typically has a lower concentration of whitening ingredients compared to other at-home and in-office options, further restricting the product’s effectiveness. This doesn’t mean whitening toothpaste doesn’t work — it can. Just be aware of its limitations, experts said.
“There’s nothing wrong with using whitening toothpaste if it has the ADA seal,” Hewlett said. “But as far as truly whitening them like a treatment at the dentist’s office? No. That’s not going to happen.”
Overall, so long as you’re using an ADA-accepted whitening toothpaste, it will help keep your teeth clean and cavity-free, in addition to providing some whitening or stain-removing benefits.