Have you been thinking about reviving your once vibrant and bright smile? You may be surprised by the number of whitening toothpastes available on the shelves. To help you make sense of all of the options when it comes to whitening toothpastes, here’s an overview of what ingredients to look for, how they work, and what effects they can have on your teeth.
Hydrogen Peroxide vs. Carbamide Peroxide
- Hydrogen Peroxide - Hydrogen peroxide has a long history as a bleaching agent in things like hair lightening products. When used in whitening toothpaste, hydrogen peroxide gently removes common food stains on the enamel and can make a big difference when it comes to whitening your smile. Hydrogen peroxide works by removing extrinsic stains and — in some cases — intrinsic stains, as opposed to toothpastes that use high cleaning silica, which only removes surface stains on the outer layer of the teeth.
Because hydrogen peroxide is so good at whitening your teeth, it is true that higher concentrations can speed up the whitening process. But for safety reasons, higher percentages of hydrogen peroxide are only used during in-office teeth whitening procedures administered by your dentist. During professional whitening procedures, the level of hydrogen peroxide can be as high as 25% to 40%, which is far more than what is considered a safe amount for at-home use.
- Carbamide Peroxide - Used in both over-the-counter whitening products and home-use remedies from your dentist, water-based carbamide peroxide breaks down into two components: hydrogen peroxide and urea. After the breakdown occurs, the hydrogen peroxide is actually what whitens your teeth. A whitening product that contains 10% carbamide peroxide will typically break down to 3.5% hydrogen peroxide, depending on the concentration.
If you're unsure which whitening toothpaste ingredient is best, talk to your dentist before making a decision. They can help you find the best option for you to get the results you want.
Some stains on your teeth don’t react to whitening toothpastes because they become part of the internal structure of the tooth. However, if you use a whitening toothpaste, many of your deep set stains may diminish, depending on the source of the stain and how long it's been there.
Unlike whitening toothpaste, whiteners such as whitening strips or whitening gels are not designed to remove plaque and keep your teeth clean. These products only contain whitening ingredients and do not protect teeth against cavities. Whitening toothpastes are specially formulated to clean and protect your teeth while working to remove stains at the same time.
When used properly and as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions, both hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide based tooth whitening is safe and effective. Always read the manufacturer’s label to be aware of any risks and call your dentist if you experience any adverse side effects. The most common side effect of using hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth can be teeth sensitivity.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's 2019 policy on dental whitening for adolescent patients, whitening should only be used on primary and young permanent teeth if supervised by an adult and under the guidance of a dentist.
Don’t let surface stains keep you from sporting a confident smile. Ask your dentist about using a whitening toothpaste to make your pearly whites shine while keeping your teeth clean and protected.