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Whitening Toothpaste Facts & Recommendations

Michael Bayba Headshot
Written by
Michael Bayba
Medically Reviewed by 
Dr. Erica Anand
20 Sources Cited

Does Whitening Toothpaste Actually Work?

Many people are unhappy with the color of their teeth. This has led to a massive influx of cosmetic teeth bleaching products, including whitening toothpastes. In any given store, you’ll find several different options, all of them boasting whitening capabilities.

But does whitening toothpaste actually help whiten your teeth?

The short answer: yes, but only a little.

Whitening toothpastes have been scientifically proven to improve the color of your teeth slightly.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 However, they are only effective at removing surface stains (extrinsic staining).

Extrinsic stains are caused by foreign substances coming in contact with the enamel (outer surface) of your teeth. Common causes of surface stains include:

  • Foods and drinks that are high in sugars, simple carbohydrates, or acids (soda, candy, tomato sauce, etc.)
  • Foods and drinks that are dark-colored and contain tannins or pigmentation (coffee, red wine, beets, etc.)
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Plaque build-up (this gives substances a sticky surface to attach to)

Some whitening toothpastes can remove surface stains. However, no whitening toothpaste can change your enamel color or lighten a stain that occurs within your tooth (intrinsic staining).

Our Top Recommendations

Best Overall: Snow Whitening Toothpaste

Best Remineralizing (Peroxide-Free): Hismile PAP+

Best Budget Option: Arm & Hammer Advance White Extreme Whitening Toothpaste

Best for Sensitive Teeth and Gums: Supersmile Professional Whitening Toothpaste

Whitening toothpaste is best used as one part of a teeth whitening regimen. It can also be used as a preventative measure once you have achieved your desired tooth color. However, whitening LED kits and teeth whitening strips are much more effective at improving the color of your teeth at home.7

How Does Whitening Toothpaste Work?

There are three main techniques that whitening toothpastes use to whiten teeth:

Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is the safest and most effective teeth whitening agent.8, 9, 10

It is a natural bleaching agent used in the majority of professional and at-home whitening treatments. Peroxide toothpaste can help to remove and prevent surface stains. However, it is not as effective as peroxide-based professional whitening treatments, LED kits, or teeth whitening strips.  

Abrasives

Many whitening toothpastes contain abrasive materials.

There are a variety of ingredients used, all with different levels of abrasiveness. Some ingredients that are used include: pro-arginine and calcium carbonate, strontium acetate, stannous fluoride, zinc carbonate and hydroxyapatite, new silica, and tetrapotassium pyrophosphate and hydroxyapatite.11 

If a material is too abrasive it can cause damage to your tooth enamel or gum irritation. However, most modern whitening toothpastes that contain abrasives are proven to be effective at removing surface stains and maintaining the quality of your enamel.5

Blue covarine

Some whitening toothpastes contain a pigment called blue covarine.

This substance coats your enamel with a thin, semi-transparent layer of blue pigment. The film interacts with light and is intended to make your teeth appear whiter. However, blue covarine has not been shown to be more effective at helping your teeth appear whiter than other whitening toothpaste.3, 12

Baking soda

Peroxides and abrasives are the best whitening ingredients in toothpastes. Baking soda has also been proven lightly lift surface stains.14 However, adding hydrogen peroxide to baking soda significantly increases the effectiveness of baking soda.15, 16

In order to make sure your toothpaste is safe and effective, use one with the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.

What Whitening Agents DON’T Work in Toothpastes?

Hydrogen peroxide and abrasives are the most effective ingredients in whitening toothpastes, so stick to those. There are several ingredients that claim to whiten your teeth, but have no scientific evidence to support their claim.

Charcoal

Activated charcoal, or carbon, has received mixed results in scientific studies.

It has not definitively been proven to whiten teeth. And the whitening results it has shown may be the result of charcoal abrasively removing enamel on your teeth. This can actually cause your teeth to turn yellow by exposing the yellowish dentin underneath. 

Dentists and researchers agree that charcoal is not a safe and reliable method of whitening your teeth. In fact, it has the potential to cause enamel and gum damage.13, 14, 18

Turmeric

Turmeric is another ingredient that is gaining traction on social media and blogs.

However, it has been shown to have little to no whitening effect on your teeth.19 In fact, turmeric is a natural abrasive and can weaken tooth enamel to look less white.

Coconut, peppermint, and other oils

Coconut and peppermint oils are the most popular oils used in “natural” products.

However, there is little to no scientific research to support the effectiveness of these oils.20 There has been some research done into coconut oil and the practice of “oil pulling.” According to the ADA:

“There is an absence of documented tooth whitening derived from oil pulling, it is worth noting that adverse events ranging from lipoid pneumonia to upset stomach and diarrhea have been reported.” 

The American Dental Association

How to Use Whitening Toothpastes for a Brighter Smile

Brushing with a whitening toothpaste twice a day is an effective way to remove surface stains from your teeth in two to six weeks. They can also prevent new stains from forming. If the only discoloration you have on your teeth is extrinsic, whitening toothpaste may be an effective solution. 

However, if the color of your enamel has changed, or you have intrinsic staining, whitening toothpastes will not work. You’ll need to use one of these three options:

Using a whitening toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance, along with another peroxide-based treatment is the best way to achieve a pearly white smile.

3 Best Whitening Toothpastes of 2022

Based on our research, the best whitening toothpastes of 2022 are:

snow whitening toothpaste

Snow Whitening Toothpaste

Best Overall

Snow's Whitening Toothpaste whitens and cleans your teeth with natural ingredients.

The formula is free of fluoride, sulfates, and other toxic ingredients. It is also specially designed to be gentle on enamel and whiten your teeth without sensitivity.

The toothpaste can be used twice a day to brighten your smile. It comes in two flavors:

  1. Morning Frost (AM toothpaste) to kickstart your day.
  2. Midnight Mint (PM toothpaste) with lavender to help you sleep.
hismile pap toothpaste

Hismile PAP+ Toothpaste

Best Remineralizing (Peroxide-Free)

Hismile PAP+ is the only non-fluoridated toothpaste we picked with three active ingredients: phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid (PAP), hydroxyapatite (HAP), and potassium citrate. This means it provides all their benefits in equal strengths.

PAP is a peroxide-free bleach that whitens teeth without causing gum irritation or sensitivity.4 It is safer than teeth whitening products that use hydrogen peroxide.

HAP is superior to NHAP for remineralization. It also gets extra help from arginine, a compound that breaks down into calcium carbonate and remineralizes teeth.

Lastly, it contains potassium citrate to reduce tooth sensitivity.5

Arm and Hammer Advanced White

Arm & Hammer Advance White Extreme Whitening Toothpaste

Best Budget Option

This toothpaste uses Crest’s most advanced bleaching formula, removing up to 95 percent of surface stains with consistent use. The micro-cleansing teeth whitener polishes away stains and provides a gentle foaming action to clean hard-to-reach areas. 

When paired with daily brushing (twice a day), this toothpaste provides 24-hour active stain prevention. It is also safe to use on sensitive teeth and gums. 

The formula is enamel-safe and has a vibrant peppermint flavor to freshen your breath. It also contains fluoride to help protect your teeth from plaque buildup and cavities. 

SuperSmile Professional Toothpaste

SuperSmile Professional Whitening Toothpaste

Best Budget Option

This toothpaste uses Crest’s most advanced bleaching formula, removing up to 95 percent of surface stains with consistent use. The micro-cleansing teeth whitener polishes away stains and provides a gentle foaming action to clean hard-to-reach areas. 

When paired with daily brushing (twice a day), this toothpaste provides 24-hour active stain prevention. It is also safe to use on sensitive teeth and gums. 

The formula is enamel-safe and has a vibrant peppermint flavor to freshen your breath. It also contains fluoride to help protect your teeth from plaque buildup and cavities. 

Read our Review of Supersmile whitening toothpaste

Native Toothpaste

Native Whitening Toothpaste with Fluoride

Best Deep Clean Option

Native is a newer and more expensive brand of teeth whitening toothpaste.

However, this product has tons of five-star reviews across multiple websites. Many customers mention that it provides a deep clean, freshens breath, and gradually whitens teeth with daily use. 

Native’s fluoride whitening toothpaste contains 0.24 percent sodium fluoride and silica, a gentle abrasive that helps polish teeth, remove plaque/tartar, and lift stains. 

The formula also contains ingredients like glycerin to retain natural moisture and xylitol to help remove bacteria and freshen bad breath. 

Toms of Maine Flouride free Antiplaque Whitening

Tom's of Maine Fluoride-Free Antiplaque & Whitening Toothpaste

Best Fluoride-Free Option

Tom’s is a popular brand of natural and cruelty-free oral care products. This mint toothpaste doesn’t contain fluoride, artificial dyes, preservatives, flavorings, or sweeteners.

The ingredients are vegan (and 100 percent naturally derived) to provide a non-toxic, fresh whitening experience.

Tom’s fluoride-free toothpaste also contains zinc citrate, xylitol, and other antiplaque substances. These ingredients work together to freshen breath and remove surface stains without harming your teeth.

Takeaways

  • Teeth whitening toothpaste is an effective way at lifting surface stains
  • Whitening toothpastes cannot change the color of your teeth or remove intrinsic stains
  • Hydrogen peroxide and abrasives are the best ingredients in whitening toothpastes
  • Charcoal has not been proven to be effective at whitening teeth, in fact it could potentially damage your mouth
  • Turmeric, coconut oil, peppermint oil, and other holistic ingredients have no scientific evidence to support their effectiveness
  • If you have intrinsic staining, using an LED whitening kit, teeth whitening strips, or getting professional in-office whitening treatment will help you achieve a brighter smile
  • Whitening toothpaste is also a way to prevent new stains from forming on your teeth.
  • Only use whitening toothpastes with the ADA Seal of Acceptance to ensure safety and effectiveness
Last updated on April 25, 2022
20 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 25, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  2. Torres, CRG, et al. “Efficacy of Mouth Rinses and Toothpaste on Tooth Whitening.” Operative Dentistry, Allen Press, 1 Jan. 2013. 
  3. Vaz, Vanessa Torraca Peraro, et al. “Whitening Toothpaste Containing Activated Charcoal, Blue Covarine, Hydrogen Peroxide or Microbeads: Which One Is the Most Effective?Journal of Applied Oral Science, Faculdade De Odontologia De Bauru - USP, 14 Jan. 2019.
  4. Moran, J, et al. “Clinical Studies to Determine the Effectiveness of a Whitening Toothpaste at Reducing Stain (Using a Forced Stain Model).” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 10 Jan. 2005. 
  5. Roselino, Lourenço de Moraes Rego, et al. “Randomized Clinical Study of Alterations in the Color and Surface Roughness of Dental Enamel Brushed with Whitening Toothpaste.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 30 Mar. 2018. 
  6. Joiner, A., et al. “Whitening Toothpastes: Effects on Tooth Stain and Enamel.” International Dental Journal, Elsevier, 7 Dec. 2020. 
  7. Meireles, Sônia Saeger, et al. “Efficacy of Whitening Toothpaste Containing Blue Covarine: A Double‐Blind Controlled Randomized Clinical Trial.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons. 
  8. Zekonis, Ruta, et al. “Clinical Evaluation of in-Office and at-Home Bleaching Treatments.” Operative Dentistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003.
  9. Basting, RT, et al. “Clinical Comparative Study of the Effectiveness of and Tooth Sensitivity to 10% and 20% Carbamide Peroxide Home-Use and 35% and 38% Hydrogen Peroxide In-Office Bleaching Materials Containing Desensitizing Agents.” Operative Dentistry, Allen Press, 1 Sept. 2012.
  10. Mokhlis, G R, et al. “A Clinical Evaluation of Carbamide Peroxide and Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Agents during Daytime Use.” Journal of the American Dental Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2000.
  11. Arnold, W H, et al. “Dentin Abrasivity of Various Desensitizing Toothpastes.” Head & Face Medicine, BioMed Central, 2 Apr. 2016.
  12. Dantas, Andréa Abi Rached, et al. “Can a Bleaching Toothpaste Containing Blue Covarine Demonstrate the Same Bleaching as Conventional Techniques? An in Vitro, Randomized and Blinded Study.” Journal of Applied Oral Science : Revista FOB, Faculdade De Odontologia De Bauru Da Universidade De São Paulo, 2015. 
  13. Thakur, Abhilasha, et al. “Charcoal in Dentistry.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 27 Mar. 2020, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/9781119618973.ch13. 
  14. Brooks, John K., et al. “Charcoal and Charcoal-Based Dentifrices: A Literature Review.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, Elsevier, 7 June 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002817717304129. 
  15. Li, Yiming. “Stain Removal and Whitening by Baking Soda Dentifrice: A Review of Literature.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, Elsevier, 19 Oct. 2017.
  16. Ghassemi, A, et al. “Effectiveness of a New Dentifrice with Baking Soda and Peroxide in Removing Extrinsic Stain and Whitening Teeth.” Europe PMC, The Journal of Clinical Dentistry, 1 Jan. 2012.
  17. Kleber, CJ, et al. “In Vitro Tooth Whitening by a Sodium Bicarbonate/Peroxide Dentifrice.” Europe PMC, The Journal of Clinical Dentistry, 1 Jan. 1998. 
  18. Brooks, John, et al. “Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, 1 Sept 2017, jada.ada.org/article/S0002-817730412-9/fulltext.
  19. Abidia, Randa, et al. “Efficacy of Tooth Whitening Using Natural Products in Vitro.” The Saudi Dental Journal, Elsevier, 21 Feb. 2019. 
  20. Whitening.” American Dental Association, www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/whitening.
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