The vast majority of whitening toothpastes don't actually list how long it takes for your teeth to get whiter after using it. Unfortunately that isn't very helpful at all because everyone is dying to know how long it takes for their whitening toothpaste to work.
Fortunately for you, we've managed to find some clues from Colgate and Arm & Hammer about the duration of time it takes to see white teeth. Whitening toothpaste can take between 2-6 weeks of brushing twice a day before you see whiter teeth and the amount of time depends on the concentration of peroxide within the toothpaste.
Table of contents:
Whitening toothpaste with peroxide
The amount of time it takes for whitening toothpaste to work seems to be correlated with the concentration of peroxide in it.
A higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide will take less time to see results.
A lower concentration of peroxide will take more time to see whiter teeth.
We are fortunate that Colgate has at least left a clue for us in how this all works with their optic white line of teeth whitening toothpastes. The colgate optic white does work and it all has to do with the peroxide within their dentifices.
Optic white pro series toothpaste (5% hydrogen peroxide)
In our opinion, the Colgate Optic White pro series is the best whitening toothpaste currently available. The reason is because it contains the highest concentration of peroxide in toothpaste form.
Consequently it is also the product that will give you the fastest cosmetic result. You can get whiter teeth in as little as two weeks from using it twice a day.
The Colgate® Optic White® Pro Series users typically see results after twice daily brushing for two weeks.
They allege that it can remove 15 years of stains in just 2 weeks. Supposedly you can whiten your teeth 10x as much as a non-peroxide based whitening toothpaste after 4 weeks of use.
Optic white renewal whitener toothpaste (3% hydrogen peroxide)
The optic white renewal toothpaste has 3% hydrogen peroxide which is 2% less than the pro series. Due to this decrease in peroxide concentration, colgate says that it will take about 4 weeks to see whiter teeth.
Colgate® Optic White® Renewal Toothpaste is formulated with 3% hydrogen peroxide to provide whiter teeth vs. a fluoride toothpaste without hydrogen peroxide after four weeks of twice daily brushing.
It seems like there is a correlation between the concentration of peroxide and the amount of time to see results. A decrease of 2% concentration resulted in an additional 2 weeks for you to see whiter teeth. They still allege that this 3% formulation can still give you 10x whiter teeth than a non-peroxide whitening toothpaste.
Optic white advanced whitening toothpaste (2% hydrogen peroxide)
The colgate optic white advanced toothpaste is their lowest concentration of hydrogen peroxide product at 2%. The claim is that it will take up to 6 weeks for the toothpaste to start working. This is of course their slowest whitening toothpaste to see results.
Colgate® Optic White® Advanced® Toothpaste is formulated with 2% hydrogen peroxide to deeply whiten teeth inside and out after twice daily use for 6 weeks.
Once again, there appears to be a direct correlation between the peroxide concentration and duration of time it takes to see an effect. It also appears that they've tempered their whitening claims with this lower concentration product since it can only whiten your teeth up to 4x more than other toothpastes.
Arm and hammer advance white extreme whitening toothpaste (no concentration statement)
The arm & hammer advanced white toothpaste was one of the few that were non-colgate which had a stated duration for it to work. Unfortunately it does not list the concentration for peroxide but it does say that it takes 6 weeks to see results.
From that we can assume that it implies that the concentration is probably on the lower end of the spectrum. It may just have 1-2% peroxide within its formulation.
They're definitely not as optimistic as the optic white products since they only claim that it will whiten your teeth up to 2 shades brighter. This is in contrast to the pro series which says it will brighten up to 10x as much.
Whitening toothpaste without peroxide
According to colgate whitening toothpastes without peroxide don't actually whiten your teeth. They choose their wording very carefully because their claims are that it will remove teeth stains which helps to keep them whiter for longer.
If you compare that to their peroxide based products which make claims that it will whiten up to "X amount of times" more than other toothpastes.
The optic white stain fighter toothpaste with NO peroxide:
Colgate® Optic White® Stain Fighter® Toothpaste safely removes teeth stains and prevents new stains from forming after 2 weeks of directed use.
The optic white charcoal toothpaste with NO peroxide:
The Colgate® Optic White® with Charcoal Teeth Whitening Toothpaste is designed to remove 5x more surface stains and prevent new stains from forming when compared to an ordinary non-whitening toothpaste after 2 weeks of use as directed.
You must read their wording carefully and compare it to the peroxide based optic white products. The non-peroxide ones only mention removing the stains and it'll keep the teeth whiter. It never mentions anything about bleaching the tooth whiter!
Difference between peroxide vs non-peroxide
There is a clear distinction in the wording that Colgate uses for their peroxide vs non-peroxide products is because they thoroughly did their research. They absolutely understand how teeth whitening works and how teeth become discolored.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), yellow teeth are the result of accumulating extrinsic and intrinsic stains. Therefore in order to make the teeth whiter, you must reverse the accumulation of these stains.
You can think of the extrinsic stain removal as brushing the surface of your teeth to make them whiter. It is akin to scrubbing the table top to make it look whiter. However what this won't do is get rid of the deeply embedded intrinsic stains.
What we mean by an intrinsic stain is similar to a t-shirt with a wine stain. Scrubbing the shirt will not remove the discoloration. You must bleach the shirt in order to get rid of it and that process utilizes a chemical agent.
Your teeth are the same way in that it requires a chemical agent to reach beyond the surface of the enamel to remove the intrinsic stains. The only substance that can bleach your tooth is hydrogen peroxide since it can diffuse through the tooth to oxidize all of the stains. That is essentially how peroxide whitens your teeth.
This second way of "whitening your teeth" is what people typically think of as teeth whitening. It is when you bleach the teeth to a lighter shade such as when you partake in an in-office bleaching session at the dentist. People don't really consider the toothbrushing which is mechanical removal of extrinsic stains as teeth whitening.
So, how long does it take to whiten teeth with toothpaste?
It will take between 2-6 weeks for a whitening toothpaste with peroxide to start working. The amount of time it takes is directly proportional to the concentration of peroxide within the toothpaste. The higher the concentration the less time it will take. Consequently the lower the concentration the more time it takes to see whiter teeth.
If you are using a whitening toothpaste without peroxide, you may not see whiter teeth at all. Only peroxide can bleach a tooth since it is required in order to remove intrinsic stains. Without it you can only mechanically abrade extrinsic stains but that is not the same as bleaching the tooth!
FYI, the fastest way to whiten your teeth is professional teeth whitening with one of our dentists in Long Island City. OTC products just can't compare.