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Updated: 3 days ago

There are more whitening toothpastes than there are flavors of Coca-Cola but which one is the best toothpaste for whitening, the one to rule them all?

In order to successfully find the best toothpaste for whitening teeth, we first need to understand how they whiten your teeth. Next, we need to comb through all of the brands of toothpaste and categorize them based on effectiveness. Finally, we'll award the crown or tiara to the best one.

Table of Contents:

The cold hard facts about how whitening toothpastes work

There are only two ways that "whitening toothpaste" can whiten your teeth. The first way is by mechanically removing extrinsic stains that are on the surface of enamel. The second way is by chemically oxidizing stains that are embedded into the layer of enamel.

Therefore the respective ingredients which elicit these two effects are the only ones which are of importance to figuring out which one whitens your teeth the most effectively. It also means that all the other ingredients within toothpaste are irrelevant and unimportant.

Mechanically removing extrinsic stains on the surface of enamel

The bulk of the whitening effect from most toothpastes actually derives from its ability to mechanically abrade away extrinsic stains from the surface of enamel.

What are extrinsic stains?

Extrinsic stains cover the outermost surface of enamel but they are NOT EMBEDDED within it. This means that the stains are literally just lightly coating the surface of your tooth but not intimately integrated into it.

An equivalent analogy is pouring tomato sauce over your meatballs. The sauce is coating the meatballs but is not integrated within it. You can still easily wipe away the sauce if you didn't want it. On the other hand, if you baked the meatballs with tomatoes embedded within it, you can't just wipe away the tomatoes. The only way to remove it would be to open up the meatball and take the tomatoes out.

The same situation applies to extrinsic stains on the surface of your tooth, where they lightly coat it but is not integrated into the tooth.

These external stains can coat your teeth in two different ways but they are all derived from either foods, drinks, or some type of lifestyle habit like smoking.

  • Colored foods stuck on your enamel. If whatever you are eating has color in it, they can potentially stick to your enamel. If you don't brush it off, then it will make your teeth look like the color of the food that you just ate. An example would be if you ate a blue popsicle and then your whole mouth turned blue. Fortunately, that coloring will come off once you rinse your mouth out and brush your teeth.

  • Plaque incorporates food coloring. Alternatively, the foods don't have to stick to your teeth because the plaque on your teeth can absorb the color and change colors. Since plaque is very sticky, it can stay on your teeth for a longer period of time as compared to food simply sticking to your teeth. Some common examples of plaque taking in color is orange plaque (from orange popsicles) or black tartar (smoking or tea drinking).

What do you mean by mechanical removing stains?

Fortunately these stains can be easily removed by mechanical abrasion since they're only lightly coating the surface of your teeth. What we mean by mechanical removal is the action of brushing your teeth with the toothpaste. The act of rubbing the toothpaste with the bristles will dislodge the plaque or colored foods that may be stuck on your enamel.

An analogy is washing dishes with a sponge and soap. The sponge represents the toothbrush and the soap represents the toothpaste.

That is literally what we mean by whitening your teeth with toothpaste, rubbing off colored foods or stains on your tooth in order to reveal the natural color of your underlying tooth. Basically how this whitens is by preventing colored substances from coating your teeth. What it does not do is CHANGE the color of your natural teeth.

Chemically oxidizing stains embedded into enamel

In addition to mechanical abrasion, some toothpastes have an additional whitening effect that can chemically oxidize stains that are embedded into the tooth. This is different from mechanically brushing away stains because this can remove deeper stains via a chemical reaction.

What are stains that are embedded into the tooth?

These are deeper stains that are incorporated into the layer of the enamel. They are not coating the outer surface of your teeth because they have actually become integrated into your tooth.

This means that you won't be able to brush these stains away because they are not a coat on top of the tooth. They are literally bonded into the tooth and are situated on the inner layer of the actual enamel. The only way to remove these is by a chemical reaction that can oxidize them.

What do you mean by oxidizing stains?

Oxidizing incorporated stains is what we traditionally think of as teeth whitening, where we whiten or bleach the teeth to a different color. The chemical reaction can dislodge these deeply embedded stains from within the enamel, thus revealing a whiter tooth.

There are only two teeth whitening ingredients which can oxidize a stain:

  • Hydrogen peroxide

  • Carbamide peroxide

Consequently these are also the same ingredients that your dentist uses to professionally whiten your teeth. Therefore if you want the same effect as a professionally done whitening, you should try to find products that contain the same ingredients.

The best types of teeth whitening toothpastes

Now that you understand how these toothpaste whiten your teeth, we can categorize them based on whether they only mechanically remove stains or they do both, mechanically and chemically oxidize stains. Basically we can group them into these two types.

Whitening toothpastes that will abrade away extrinsic stains

To be honest, all toothpastes with the label "whitening" on them will have this effect. Therefore we can literally list every toothpaste that states it will whiten your teeth on here but that list will be extensively exhaustive.

Instead we will simply list a couple of common brands:

  • Crest 3D white brilliance toothpaste

  • Arm & Hammer advance white extreme whitening toothpaste

  • Sensodyne extra whitening

  • Twice classic duo

  • Burt's Bees purely white zen peppermint

  • HiSmile PAP+ Toothpaste

  • Sensodyne Repair and protect deep repair whitening toothpaste

  • Colgate total whitening

  • Hello naturally whitening toothpaste

  • Bite fresh mint toothpaste bits

  • Dirt don't hurt tooth powder with activated charcoal

  • Tom's of Maine antiplaque natural whitening toothpaste

  • David's toothpaste

Professional opinion on which of these are the best

My professional opinion as a practicing dentist is that all of these toothpastes will "whiten" your teeth by removing extrinsic stains but there is no difference in their whitening ability. If there is, it is negligible at most.

The most important concept to understand is grouping them into how they whiten your teeth and all of these products do it the same way. If you wanted an edge or advantage in greater whitening ability, you should seek out a product that can chemically oxidize stains, which will be discussed below.

Whitening toothpastes that can oxidize stains

As far as we are aware of there are two brands of whitening toothpaste that can oxidize stains because they contain hydrogen peroxide or some form of it. Hydrogen peroxide is one of the two ingredients, which have the ability to chemically oxidize stains.

The first brand of toothpaste is the Colgate Optic White:

  • Colgate optic white - pro series toothpaste (5% hydrogen peroxide)

  • Colgate optic white renewal (3% hydrogen peroxide)

Colgate optic white pro series

Colgate use to have the regular optic white but it has since been replaced by the pro series line, which is actually stronger. It is stronger and more effective because it has a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide coming in at 5%. The regular renewal line only has 3% hydrogen peroxide. This makes the pro series the strongest and most effective.

The second brand of toothpaste is Supersmile:

  • Supersmile professional whitening toothpaste (Calprox®)

  • Supersmile extra whitening toothpaste (3x Calprox®)

This brand was invented by a dentist and it contains a proprietary ingredient called Calprox® which is basically some variation of calcium peroxide. It is actually a dry delivery vehicle for hydrogen peroxide.

When calcium peroxide comes into contact with water, it begins to break down and release oxygen. Eventually the calcium peroxide will form hydrogen peroxide, which is one of our desired whitening ingredients. In other words, it is a type of delivery mechanism for hydrogen peroxide.

The Verdict - The absolute BEST whitening toothpaste

The best whitening toothpaste would be either the Colgate Optic White Pro Series or the Supersmile Extra Whitening because they both contain a form of hydrogen peroxide.

The best optic white line is the pro series since it has the highest concentration of hydrogen peroxide at 5%. The other toothpastes in the same brand have a lower concentration around 3%. Therefore the most effective whitening one would be the highest concentration one.

The best supersmile toothpaste is the extra whitening because it has the highest concentration of calcium peroxide. In fact, it has three times as much as the regular supersmile professional whitening.

Our purpose is to provide you with the best oral health information possible and we try to do that while being brand agnostic as much as possible. We do believe that both of these two brands should serve you well but we will not choose one over the other. Therefore we will have to aware the crown and tiara to both of them.

I suppose there isn't one whitening toothpaste to rule them all since we need two rings.

However, if you wanted to learn more about alternative ways on how to whiten your teeth, we do have a more comprehensive guide covering every way imaginable.

Author: Written by Dr David Chen, a cosmetic dentist in long island city.

Closing comment:

We would like to make one additional comment and that is in regards to the best whitening toothpaste for sensitive teeth. If you do have sensitive teeth, you should actually look for a product that contains anti-sensitivity effects.

In this case you may want to check out the sensodyne pronamel line of toothpaste or one of the hydroxyapatite toothpastes. Both will have anti-sensitivity properties to them, which can help mitigate sensitivity from whitening your teeth.


David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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