Whitening toothpaste should be perfectly safe to use but it’s worth considering a few things before making your purchase. These types of toothpastes can help remove surface stains but do very little to change the actual colour of your teeth. They don’t tend to contain any bleaching agents, but may be useful for anyone who enjoys drinking red wine, coffee and tea, or people who smoke. They can make teeth appear a little brighter but the results aren’t particularly noticeable.
How can whitening toothpastes remove stains?
Whitening toothpastes typically contain some sort of mild abrasive agent. This helps to gently polish the surface of the teeth, removing superficial staining. Whitening toothpastes tend to contain ingredients such as alumina, calcium phosphates or calcium carbonate, hydrated silica or silicon dioxide. Some toothpastes are more abrasive than others but it can be tricky to find out which is best. In general it’s always better to choose toothpastes which have been accredited by the British Dental Association.
All toothpastes have undergone a Relative Dentine Abrasiveness test which gives them an RDA figure that indicates the degree of abrasiveness. Toothpastes with an RDA of between zero and 70 contain very little abrasive agents, while those with a value of between 70 and 100 are mildly abrasive.
Any toothpastes with an RDA figure of between 100 and 150 contain high amounts of abrasive agents. There are even toothpastes available that have scores above this level, but if they were to be used on a daily basis they would almost certainly harm teeth. As a comparison, good old baking soda which is often used to remove surface stains has an RDA value of seven. Unfortunately it can be quite tricky to find out the RDA value of your favourite toothpaste, and you might need to call the consumer helpline of the brand for further information.
If you decide to go for highly abrasive toothpaste then don’t be tempted to use it every day, as you should be using it in conjunction with ordinary toothpaste. If used every day these highly abrasive toothpastes will damage the enamel layer of the teeth causing it to become thinner and duller.
A thinner enamel layer will also allow more of your natural tooth colour to show through. The tooth material beneath the enamel is called dentin, and this contains the natural colour of your teeth. Tooth enamel tends to become thinner as we age, exposing more of this underlying dentin and is part of the reason why older people tend to have darker teeth than younger people.
If you do want to try whitening toothpaste then you may want to pick a whitening mouthwash to be used in conjunction with this product. Whitening mouthwash tends to contain a small amount of bleach, but it’s best to choose one which is alcohol free, and which contains some sort of antibacterial agent, and it’s even better if you can find one that contains fluoride to help strengthen your teeth.
Fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay while antibacterial agents will help lessen the numbers of plaque bacteria that could otherwise cause gum disease. Although everyone wants a gloriously white smile, it’s always worth remembering that the most important thing is to have a healthy smile.