There are more ways than ever to whiten your smile. From in-office treatments to white strips to whitening light devices, the options are plentiful. But if you’re looking for something you can do every day to maintain your pearly whites, whitening toothpaste is your best, most affordable option. While they’re not designed to remove stains that go deeper than the surface of your teeth or change your teeth’s natural color, they can remove unwanted discoloration. Read on for a few of the best whitening toothpastes, as well as two dentists' recommendations for what to look for.
The Best Whitening Toothpastes, at a Glance:
- Best for surface stains: Colgate, Optic White Pro Toothpaste, $10
- Best dentist-developed: Opalescence, Whitening Toothpaste, $13
- Best for serious stains: Carifree, Gel 1100, $17
- Best fast-acting: Crest, 3D White Brilliance, $7
- Best budget: Arm & Hammer, Advance White, $5
- Best for sensitive teeth: Sensodyne, Extra Whitening, $9
- Best natural: Tom's of Maine, Luminous White, $8
- Best for gums: Arm & Hammer, PeroxiCare (2-Pack), $9
Can Toothpaste Alone Really Whiten Teeth?
With all of the whitening gadgets on the market today, it's almost hard to believe that good 'ol toothpaste can make a difference. However, according to dentists, there are some stains that whitening toothpaste can tackle with ease.
“The stains most commonly addressed through whitening toothpaste are extrinsic stains also known as surface-level coffee, tea, or wine stains appearing on the outer surfaces of the teeth,” said Ghaznia Khan, DDS, a cosmetic dentist at Fort Worth Dentist.
If you’re looking to just brighten your overall smile, you’ll find two categories of whitening toothpaste on the market. They either contain enamel-safe abrasives to help remove more surface plaque and tartar, or ones that contain peroxide or bleach that dissolve stains. “My personal favorites contain peroxide-based solutions for a stronger stain-fighting effect,” said Dr. Khan.
What Can't Toothpaste Do?
Of course, toothpaste also has its limits. “Intrinsic stains are caused by medications or appear as natural gray or yellow hues of the tooth. These cannot be removed by whitening toothpaste.” For stains that go beyond the surface, Dr. Khan recommends seeing a dentist to help determine the best treatment for you.
And if you’re someone who has sensitive teeth, or has struggled in the past to use whitening toothpaste, Joyce Kahng, DDS, cosmetic dentist and owner at Orange and Magnolia Dental Studio says that you might want to avoid whitening toothpaste altogether because of their high abrasivity level. “The key to toothpaste is to find a happy medium,” she said. “We do want some abrasives in there to help clean, but we do not want it to be overly abrasive either. I like to stick in the low to medium abrasivity range on the Relative Dentin Abrasivity Scale.”
So, if you’re curious about what dentists recommend to their patients, we asked Dr. Khan and Dr. Kahng about their favorite and most effective whitening toothpastes. Here’s what they had to say.
Shop 8 of the Best Whitening Toothpastes, Per Dentists
Few toothpaste brands are more recognizable than Colgate, and dentists agree you can’t go wrong with using any product from their line-up. But Dr. Khan recommends their Optic White Pro toothpaste because it contains hydrogen peroxide and abrasives to get at those surface stains. It’s also made with 0.454 percent antimicrobial stannous fluoride, which studies say helps fight against gingivitis, plaque, and tooth sensitivity.
Key ingredients: Hydrogen peroxide, stannous fluoride
Flavor: Wintergreen mint
If you’re looking to brighten your smile with a system dentists use in their offices, Dr. Khan recommends Opalescence whitening toothpaste. Developed by a dentist, their vegan, gluten-free formula is less abrasive than other whitening toothpaste and promises to brighten your smile by two shades in four weeks.
Key ingredients: Silica, sodium fluoride,
Flavor: Cool mint
This low-abrasion tooth gel is on the pricey side, but Dr. Kahng recommends this to patients who are looking to get rid of serious stains without in-office whitening treatments. The formula includes sodium fluoride to provide anti-cavity benefits and uses its unique, patented pH+ technology to neutralize acids. Plus, it features nano-hydroxyapatite, a mineral that helps protect enamel.
Key ingredients: Sodium fluoride, xylitol, nano-hydroxyapatite
Flavor: Citrus, grape, or mint
Crest 3D white strips are a great at-home whitening system, but if you’re looking to keep your teeth pearly white on the regular, Dr. Khan recommends their Brilliance toothpaste. The enamel-safe foam that is activated as soon as you start brushing gets into those hard-to-reach places in your mouth, and can remove tough stains in as little as five days.
Key ingredients: Sodium fluoride, silica
Both Dr. Khan and Dr. Kahng recommend Arm & Hammer Advance White because it uses the natural power of baking soda to neutralize acids that can weaken and erode the enamel on your teeth. And the toothpaste promises to prevent new stains from forming.
Key ingredients: Baking soda, sodium fluoride
Flavor: Clean mint
If you struggle with sensitive teeth and find that some whitening toothpaste or treatments are too harsh, Dr. Khan recommends Sensodyne Extra Whitening. The toothpaste contains sodium tripolyphosphate, which gently lifts and helps prevent surface tooth stains from forming. And like all Sensodyne products it contains potassium nitrate, which helps relieve sensitivity by soothing the nerves inside your teeth, so you can enjoy your favorite foods and still keep your pearly whites.
Key ingredients: Potassium nitrate, sodium tripolyphosphate
If you’re looking for a more natural and gentle option to maintain your oral hygiene, Tom’s of Maine product line is a great place to start. Dr. Khan recommends the brand’s Simply White toothpaste because it uses naturally-derived hydrated silica instead of hydrogen peroxide to remove stains.
Key ingredients: Hydrated silica, sodium fluoride, xylitol
If you’re someone who tends to brush a little hard, Dr. Kahng recommends Arm and Hammer Peroxicare Healthy Gums. It not only whitens teeth with its baking soda formula, but it also helps strengthen gums and remove built-up plaque along the gum line that can lead to hard-to-remove stains.
Key ingredients: Sodium fluoride, baking soda, peroxide
Of course, if you’re not sure which whitening toothpaste is best for you, it’s always best to reach out to your dentist for a personalized recommendation.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Whitening Toothpaste
When shopping for a brightening toothpaste, keep the following in mind:
- Sensitivity level: If you already have sensitive teeth, the abrasiviy of whitening toothpaste may cause pain or increased sensitivity. Luckily there are less abrasive options (check out the Sensodyne pick, above!) that cater to sensitive teeth.
- Flavor preferences: Most of the options on this list are mint-flavored. If you're hoping to branch out a bit, the Carifree pick on our list has a few other options like orange or grape.
- Budget: Because toothpaste is something we use on a daily basis, it's important to feel good about the price tag. This is especially true if you're using whitening toothpaste in conjunction with other whitening tools, like strips or trays. The cost can add up, but there are plenty of budget-friendly options out there.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can yellow teeth turn white again?
If your teeth have yellowed due to extrinsic stains (stains on the surface), whitening strips or toothpastes may help unearth your pearly whites. However, if your teeth have yellowed due to medications or deeper, intrinsic stains, you'll need to speak with your dentist about professional treatment options.
Which is better for teeth whitening: baking soda or hydrogen peroxide?
Baking soda is an abrasive and doesn't whiten teeth alone. However, when mixed with peroxide, the two ingredients pack a powerful whitening punch. In fact, Dr. Kahn's favorite formulas contain peroxide.
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