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Should Whitening Toothpastes Have SLS?

An effective whitening toothpaste should have sodium lauryl sulfate in it if it ever wants to be a contender for being the best. Yes, that means SLS is helpful in making them work better and without them, your teeth wouldn't whiten as well.

How SLS helps whitening toothpaste

All whitening toothpastes that are worth their salt should have SLS in them because it assists in stain removal and also in spreading the whitening agent across the teeth.

colgate whitening toothpastes
colgate whitening toothpastes

Stain removal: It lowers the surface tension by penetrating and loosening up surface deposits (food and plaque) on teeth. This causes the deposits and stains to be emulsified or suspended, which facilitates its removal when brushing.

Spreads whitening agent: As with all detergents, the SLS assists in foaming, lubrication, and spreading of material and in this case, it helps spread the toothpaste.

  • What this does is help the toothpaste get into every nook and cranny of your teeth so that it can whiten them.

  • Without it, the toothpaste may have a difficult time reaching some areas of your teeth.

The combination of both of these effects are what makes it a very helpful ingredient to have.

An analogy would be if you wanted to clean a dinner plate without detergent. That would certainly make it much more difficult to remove food off the plate right? The same can be said about stains on teeth, without a detergent you'll have a difficult time whitening them.

black staining on teeth
black staining on teeth


Effect of SLS-free whitening toothpastes

A whitening toothpaste without SLS will not be as effective in whitening your teeth because it would lack the stain removal benefit as well as the assistance in spreading the bleaching agent.

Ultimately what that means is your toothpaste will not be as potent or helpful as it could be. Therefore if you've been using a toothpaste that alleges it whitens but you're not seeing much progress, this could be a potential cause.

Davids SLS-free whitening toothpaste
Davids SLS-free whitening toothpaste

Perhaps you should consider switching to a better product.

Exception: Sodium lauryl sulfate is but one surfactant/detergent which is used in toothpaste. That means there are other types that could be used as a substitute for SLS.

Examples of other surfactants in toothpaste:

  • Cocamidopropyl betaine

  • Cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine

  • Disodium cocoyl glutamate

  • Lauryl diethylenediaminoglycine hcl

  • Polyethylene glycol

  • Polysorbate 80

  • Potassium cocoate

  • Sodium cocoyl glutamate

  • Sodium methyl cocoyl taurate

Please be aware that while there are many alternatives and substitutes available, SLS is the most potent one out of them all.


Best whitening toothpaste has SLS

In case you were wondering, yes the best whitening toothpaste on the market does contain SLS in it and it is called the colgate optic white pro series.

optic white pro series

The SLS in the formulation helps the whitening abrasives mechanically remove stains from your teeth. It also helps the hydrogen peroxide spread across your dentition to bleach off the stains.

Our dentists in Long Island City highly recommend using this toothpaste because it contains all of the quintessential ingredients to help make your teeth whiter by brushing. However, if you wanted an alternative we recommend looking for a product that has SLS with hydrogen peroxide whenever possible. Although if all else fails, you can always schedule a professional whitening appointment!


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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