The “Real Nitty Gritty” Regarding Whitening Toothpastes
Everyone wants a smile that’s clean, bright, and white, but maintaining that picture-perfect white smile can be challenging. Whitening toothpastes are widely advertised as an everyday way to keep your teeth white, but are they really making your smile whiter, and is there a hidden danger? Could they actually cause damage to your teeth?
True or not, yellowed, discolored teeth can be an unstated signal to others that perhaps you have poor oral hygiene, so it’s no wonder most people want whiter teeth. Unfortunately, those whitening toothpastes could be doing more harm than good to your overall dental health.
How do whitening toothpastes work?
Most tooth whitening products that are applied to teeth as a gel contain carbamide peroxide, which will bleach your teeth. However while some whitening toothpastes contain chemicals that, in certain concentrations and durations of exposure to enamel, have the *potential* to change the intrinsic color of the tooth (which is the definition of teeth whitening or bleaching), not all do. In reality, in many cases the term “Whitening Toothpaste” is a misnomer and is nothing more than clever marketing terminology. After all, if you are trying to sell your brand of toothpaste, saying it whitens is a pretty nice attribute isn’t it?
In general toothpastes are mild abrasives, that were originally marketed for the purposes of removing bacterial plaque — that sticky film on your teeth that causes cavities and gum disease. But their abrasives may also remove mild stains on the teeth. Increasing these abrasives will, in theory, remove more stains.
THE LITERAL “NITTY GRITTY”:
Most whitening toothpastes contain several additives:
- Abrasives that scrub and polish your enamel to remove surface stains.
- Examples of abrasives include calcium carbonate, calcium pyrophosphate, dehydrated silica gels, silica dioxide or perlite, sodium bicarbonate, calcium phosphate Di-hydrate, alumina oxide, magnesium carbonate, phosphate salts and hydrated aluminum Oxides. These abrasive additives do not change the color of the teeth.
- Chemicals to break down and dissolve stains.
- Low concentrations of either hydrogen peroxide or calcium peroxide.
- Some whitening toothpastes also include a chemical called blue covarine, which sticks to your teeth and makes them appear brighter and less yellow.
Most of these type of toothpastes take between 2-6 weeks to start showing results of minor stain removal when used twice daily. Products containing blue covarine have an instant effect, but it’s temporary and will wear off easily, especially after eating or drinking.
Are whitening toothpastes safe to use?
The abrasive aspects of some of the more abrasive whitening toothpastes can be damaging to your teeth when used over long periods of time or used improperly. Toothpastes or homemade products with heavy abrasives like salt may not wear down your enamel instantly, but over time the small scratches and general wear is permanent, since enamel does not grow back. Enamel that is not smooth may re-stain more easily and the thinning of the enamel actually makes your teeth appear more yellow.
So, if you feel the desire to use these type of toothpastes, do some further research into the abrasiveness factor for the particular toothpaste you are considering, and always use the more abrasive whitening toothpastes in moderation. Consider the manufacturer’s instructions, but also keep in mind that the manufacturer’s main goal is to sell its toothpaste over and over to its current and future customers.
A safer approach is to always used toothpastes endorsed by a reputable dental organization, such as the American Dental Association. Look for the ADA Seal of Approval. There are several whitening toothpastes that have earned this seal and you can either do a Google search for them or simply look on the toothpaste box. If you have any concerns or questions, talk to your dentist about the products you use and how you use them.
Tips for whiter teeth:
- Rinse your mouth with water after drinking wine, coffee, or soft drinks
- Stop smoking
- Brush your teeth twice per day
- Schedule regular dental cleanings
The safest way to achieve stain removal is through a professional dental cleaning in a dentist’s office. Then truly change the color of your enamel with professional teeth whitening services offered by your dentist. Distinctively Dental offers COMPLIMENTARY professional teeth whitening to its patients (conditions apply) as well as cosmetic dentistry services in Winston Salem, NC. Contact us today at 336-765-3357 to make an appointment.