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Whitening toothpaste: Does it actually whiten teeth?

Does whitening toothpaste actually whiten teeth?

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Mayo Clinic dental care specialist Alan Carr, D.M.D., and colleagues answer select questions from readers.

Answer

If you really want to give your teeth that bright, white glow, you'll have to look elsewhere. Whitening toothpastes are designed to remove surface stains from your teeth. As a result, they may lighten your teeth slightly. However, they cannot change the natural color of your teeth.

To help remove stains, whitening toothpaste may include:

  • Special abrasives that gently polish the teeth
  • Chemicals, such as sodium tripolyphosphate, that help break down or dissolve stains

Whitening toothpastes are generally safe for daily use. However, people with tooth or gum sensitivity, or those susceptible to tooth or gum erosion might find some whitening toothpastes too abrasive.

When buying any toothpaste, look for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.

If you would like to whiten your teeth, ask your dentist if tooth-whitening bleaches are right for you. There are a number of bleaching options available from the dentist and from retail stores. Whitening toothpastes used after bleaching may help to maintain the tooth color, but they do so by keeping the surface of the tooth free of external stains.

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May 3, 2008