There’s no doubting the increasing popularity of “whitening” toothpastes, but do they contain some magical formula that other toothpastes don’t contain? If so it seems every toothpaste manufacturer is on the secret because every brand seems to have a toothpaste that has this special power.
So what’s the difference between ordinary toothpaste and whitening toothpastes and does it really make a difference to our teeth? Traditional toothpaste is a formulation of both detergents and abrasive materials that work together to clean teeth. The detergents in toothpaste clean away food and bacteria that linger on the teeth and in the mouth after eating, drinking or sleeping. The abrasives in toothpaste further clean the teeth by loosening the plaque that builds up with daily activity.
In most basic terms, whitening toothpaste contains some extra chemicals or compounds that act on the surface of teeth to remove staining that has built up over time. While they offer the same cleaning power as their non-whitening counterparts, there is typically a bleaching agent included in the formula. As the teeth are lightly scoured by the abrasives, the bleaching agent activates below the surface of the tooth to remove surface stains and leave your teeth whiter.
The bleaching agent in your toothpaste is one component that may result in different levels of whitening and comfort. Below are the common bleaching agents found in whitening toothpaste:
- Carbamide Peroxide – A combination of peroxide (a bleaching agent) and urea (a synthetic solution that is the by product of ammonia and carbon dioxide).
- Hydrogen Peroxide – A bleaching and debriding agent (meaning it clears away dead cells) found in many of the best whitening toothpastes. Many people have some level of sensitivity to hydrogen peroxide when used on the teeth. This sensitivity is caused by the fact that hydrogen peroxide reaches below the enamel into the dentine layer underneath. This is why hydrogen peroxides so effective in combating stains but it also exposes teeth to sensitivity.
Whitening toothpaste can whiten teeth slightly by removing surface stains, such as those caused by drinking coffee or smoking. Whitening toothpaste can also be used after a bleaching treatment to help maintain results.
To remove surface stains, whitening toothpaste typically includes:
- Special abrasives that gently polish the teeth
- Chemicals that help break down or dissolve stains
Some whitening toothpastes contain the chemical blue covarine, which adheres to the surface of the teeth and creates an optical illusion that can make teeth appear less yellow.
When used twice a day, whitening toothpaste can take from two to six weeks to make teeth appear whiter. Whitening toothpaste that contains blue covarine can have an immediate effect.
Although whitening toothpaste is generally safe for daily use, be careful to follow manufacturer recommendations. Excessive use of whitening toothpaste can damage your tooth enamel over time.
Keep in mind that whitening toothpaste can’t change the natural colour of your teeth or lighten a stain that goes deeper than a tooth’s surface.