Do Tooth Whitening Toothpastes Work?

Many people long for whiter brighter teeth and our team of hygienists are frequently asked about whitening toothpastes and if they work. We need to clarify that most whitening toothpastes will not actually whiten the teeth.

We need to explain the differences in the types of discolouration you may want to remove. There are two types of tooth discoloration to consider: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic stain refers to the outside surface of the tooth. Extrinsic stains could be tea and coffee stains, tobacco stains, food or medication.

Extrinsic whitening does not change the colour of the tooth but can remove stains on enamel that make teeth look discoloured, thus bringing teeth back to their original colour. Intrinsic stain is stain that is within the tooth structure itself. The only way to physically change the colour of the tooth is by bleaching the dentine layer beneath your enamel.

Intrinsic whitening can change the colour of teeth to whiter than their original colour. For a significant intrinsic change in colour you will need professional tooth whitening by your dentist. This is done with a product that contains carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, in form of a gel. Custom whitening trays are made by your dentist and the gels are put into the trays and placed over the teeth.

So now we know the difference, it’s back to toothpastes!

Abrasivity measurements are given by what’s known as an RDA value which stands for relative dentin abrasivity. RDA is a scientific measurement of how easily the materials in a toothpaste wear down teeth, as well as plaque and other deposits.

Toothpaste makers regularly measure their product’s abrasivity. However, it is not usually included in marketing material or on the packaging as the abrasive ingredients are not a medical active ingredient. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends an RDA of 200 or below whilst the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) specification states that toothpaste should not exceed an RDA of 250. This is considered the safe limit for teeth, therefore any toothpaste with an RDA value below 250 is safe for daily use.

However, unless a toothpaste is manufactured by a well-known trusted leading brand who communicates the RDA level to dental professionals, it is difficult as dental care professionals to make recommendations to our patients, as the information is not always freely available. Some of these toothpastes may be safe to use but we simply do not know for sure.

You can check out a scientific breakdown of some common toothpastes and their abrasiveness on this link, but for newer toothpastes into the market more information may need to be obtained by contacting the toothpaste manufacturers directly.

Our Teams Top Tips for Whiter Teeth

  • Good dental hygiene is the best way to prevent your teeth from going yellow. Buildup of plaque and tartar can give your teeth a yellow tinge, so brushing, and cleaning in between your teeth is not to be underestimated.
  • Avoid red wine, black tea, smoking cigarettes or cigars, colas, gravies, and dark juices. The bottom line is, if it’s dark before you put it in your mouth it will probably stain your teeth.
  • If you are worried about staining, then use a whitening toothpaste from a brand that you know and recognise.
  • Visit your dentist, dental therapist or dental hygienist who alongside ensuring the health of your teeth and gums can also professionally remove any extrinsic stains on your teeth.
  • Ladies: Choose a medium coral or light red lipstick. These colors make your teeth look whiter, whereas lighter-colored lipsticks tend to bring out the yellow in teeth!


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E. Richards

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O. Hinton

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C. Bradley


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