Whitening toothpaste review and compare

Hoping for a DIY Hollywood smile? You might be disappointed.
 
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  • Updated:1 Jan 2005
 

01 .Introduction

Whitening-toothpaste

In brief

  • 55% of the people in our trial noticed a difference after using a whitening toothpaste for a month, but for most, the difference was small. Only WHITE GLO Extra Strength Whitening Toothpaste Professional Choice produced results that were significantly better than the average.
  • Before you buy any whitening product, we’d recommend talking to your dentist about the particular type of stain that affects your teeth, to avoid wasting money — and effort — on a product that may not work for you.

For just a few dollars (and some regular brushing), using a whitening toothpaste will result in teeth that are “whiter and brighter”, “sparkling white” and with “a whiteness you can see” — if claims on the packaging are to be believed. We put 20 to the test.

Please note: this information was current as of January 2005 but is still a useful guide today.

 
 

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For one month, 753 CHOICE Home Testers put their normal toothpaste aside and used an allocated whitening toothpaste twice a day instead. Twenty different toothpastes were included in our trial — all claiming to be ‘whitening toothpaste’ — and each product was tested by 32 to 41 trialists.

Results table

Performance
Brand / product (in rank order) Whitening difference noticed1 (%) Price per 100 g ($)*
WHITE GLO Extra Strength Whitening Toothpaste Professional Choice
78
2.87 (A)
COLGATE Whitening Plus Tartar Control
66
3.59
NATURAL WHITE Advanced Whitening Brushing Gel with SoftPolish plus PVP
63
7.02
MACLEANS Advanced Whitening
62
3.56
NATURAL WHITE Advanced Whitening Toothpaste with SoftPolish plus PVP
61
7.02
WHITE GLO Extra Strength Whitening Toothpaste Anti-Stain Anti-Plaque
59
2.66 (A)
COLGATE Whitening Plus Tartar Control 2 in 1 Toothpaste & Mouthwash
58
3.68
PEARL DROPS Extra Whitening
58
3.95
RAPID WHITE Whitening Toothpaste with SoftPolish
55
7.80
COLGATE Whitening with Micro-Cleansing Crystals
54
4.09
REMBRANDT Low Abrasion Whitening Toothpaste
53
23.47
DENTITEX Advanced Whitening Toothpaste (Aldi)
51
1.42
MACLEANS Ice Advanced Whitening
51
4.06
PEARL DROPS Arctic Mint Whitening Gel with Mouthwash
51
4.29
CEDEL Whitening Plus Tartar Control
49
2.82
COLGATE Icy Blast Whitening 2 in 1 Toothpaste & Mouthwash
49
3.99
NATURAL WHITE Advanced Whitening Toothpaste Natural Formula
47
6.31
COLGATE Total Plus Whitening
43
3.33
COLES Persona Peppermint Whitening Toothpaste
42
1.42
COLGATE Fresh Confidence Plus Whitening
41
3.53

Table notes

* Based on what we paid in July 2004.
(A) Toothbrush included with the pack we bought.

1 Whitening difference noticed.
This is the percentage of trialists who noticed a change in the whiteness of their teeth after using the whitening toothpaste for one month. It groups together trialists who responded that their teeth were ‘somewhat whiter’, ‘a lot whiter’ and ‘exceptionally whiter’ after the trial; the majority of trialists who noticed a change in whiteness commented that their teeth were merely ‘somewhat whiter’, and overall 45% of trialists perceived no difference at all in the whiteness of their teeth at the end of the trial.

03.The causes of stained teeth

 

The natural colour of people’s teeth varies from white to yellow, with every shade in between. All teeth contain red and grey colours, and the grey colours increase with age.

Teeth are made up of three layers: tough outer enamel, softer dentine, and the inner pulp. As you get older, the enamel thins through wear and tear, and the darker dentine layer can begin to show through. The dentine structure also changes as it takes up more minerals from the pulp. These two processes can make older teeth appear yellow.

In addition to genes and aging, tooth colour depends on many factors, of which general health (when your teeth are forming) and diet and lifestyle (once teeth are in your mouth) are key.

  • Health: Your health — particularly in early years when teeth are still developing — can be responsible for intrinsic stains, which affect the colour of the tooth itself. Certain antibiotic drugs, such as tetracycline, can affect tooth colour during development, as can severe fevers. Damage to the forming tooth can also cause internal discolouration, as can damage to the pulp of a permanent tooth (as a result of receiving a blow during contact sport, for example).
  • Diet and lifestyle: Then there are the surface stains, caused by diet and lifestyle — tea, coffee and smoking are three of the biggest culprits.
    Stain removal

Many whitening products specifically refer to surface stain removal as one of their methods of whitening action. A professional clean at the dentist can also remove surface stains (including those between the teeth), often producing a fresher, whiter appearance.

But while removing surface stains can restore teeth to their natural colour, this doesn’t necessarily mean your teeth will be intrinsically whitened. Deeper stains are more difficult to remove and may not respond well to home bleaching treatments, or even to the special bleaches and whitening treatments used by dentists. If the tooth is very badly stained, some type of veneer might be needed to disguise the area.

So before you spend money on DIY whitening, it’s probably worth speaking to your dentist first about treatment options for the particular type of stain affecting your teeth.

04.How whitening ingredients work

 
  • Peroxides (such as urea peroxide, carbamide peroxide) break down to hydrogen peroxide, which chemically bleaches both surface stains and the tooth itself. Peroxides, at a high enough concentration, can whiten teeth so that they’re lighter than your natural colour. Most of the non-toothpaste whitening products we looked at contain some form of peroxide (see Other ways to whiten), but it’s not an ingredient of any of the toothpastes in our Home Tester trial.
  • Abrasive agents (such as alumina, silica/hydrated silica, dicalcium phosphate) remove surface stains by physically rubbing them off the surface of the teeth.
  • Detergents (such as sodium lauryl sulphate) act as foaming agents and help to clean the tooth surface.
  • Enzymes (such as papain, derived from papaya) slow down the build-up of ‘pellicle’ — the protein-containing layer of saliva that forms on your teeth within a minute of brushing. Surface stains stick to the pellicle layer.
  • Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) is another ingredient, found in some MACLEANS and NATURAL WHITE products. According to NATURAL WHITE, PVP “binds tightly to tannins and other types of potential tooth-staining compounds”, theoretically preventing stains from accumulating on the tooth surface. Interestingly, it was also the main ingredient in the first really successful hairsprays in the 1950s!
  • Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that can help reduce plaque levels and fight tooth decay. It’s also an anti-inflammatory agent, so can reduce the progress of gum diseases.
  • Others (such as tetrasodium pyrophosphate, pentasodium triphosphate, citric acid, sodium tripolyphosphate [Triclene®]) chemically alter the electrical charge on the stains so that they’re less able to stick to your teeth. One product’s mysteriously labelled ‘advanced whitening ingredient’ (or similar) may in fact just be the same as one found in other whitening brands. Compare the ingredients lists on the packaging to find out.

Saftey

Bleaches and abrasives, the two whitening ingredients most commonly found in whitening products, are generally thought to be safe, but it’s useful to be aware of the following:

Bleaches

  • Home bleaching is generally thought to be safe, but dental experts advise consulting your dentist before using them.
  • Using home bleaching products well beyond the recommended level may result in damage to the protein component of tooth enamel, making the teeth appear more opaque (cloudy), so it’s important always to follow the product instructions carefully.
  • Some people can also experience temporary tooth or gum sensitivity when using home bleaching products, and some products are designed specifically to reduce this transient problem.

Abrasives

  • The levels of abrasives in toothpastes are generally low, so you shouldn’t need to worry about them wearing down the surfaces of your teeth.
  • As a general rule, you shouldn’t over-clean your teeth or use excessive force when you brush. Twice a day for at least two minutes is what the Australian Dental Association recommends.
  • Very abrasive toothpastes, such as those designed for removing tar from cigarette smoking, may not be suitable for children or people with sensitive teeth or receding gums.

05.Other ways to whiten

 

You might expect more from a product marketed specifically as a teeth whitener than from a mere whitening toothpaste — after all, you tend to pay more for them, they usually require more effort, and some you use in addition to toothpaste, rather than instead of. Most dedicated whitening products also make quite strong claims about their effects, which can raise expectations: “whitens teeth by up to 5 shades in just 14 days”, “whitens up to 10 shades” and “continuous application for 7–10 days will achieve amazing results”, for example. Some even go so far as to guarantee a whitening effect.

To try and assess if they’re all they’re cracked up to be, eight CHOICE staff members in pursuit of a white smile volunteered to try out eight different products on the market. Each trialist followed the instructions and time frame specific to the single product they were using. Because each product was tested by only one trialist, we can’t draw conclusions about specific brands, but results averaged across the brands suggest there was a small increase in whiteness — if only by one or two shades. But by two weeks after the trial, some trialists’ teeth had already lost some of the whiteness they’d achieved. And the feedback about satisfaction with the result, and whether the trialist would buy the product, was varied.

The whitening products on trial were:

Mouth tray with gel

  • NATURAL WHITE 5-Minute Tooth Whitening System
  • NATURAL WHITE Rapid White Tooth Whitening System
  • WHITE GLO Tooth Enamel Whitening System
  • NATURAL WHITE 5-Minute Tooth Whitening System Non-Peroxide Formula

All these kits, except NATURAL WHITE’s ‘non-peroxide formula’, use a peroxide bleach. You place a mouth tray with whitening gel over your teeth and leave it in your mouth for a set period of time. Some kits include ‘whitening accelerator’ to coat your teeth with beforehand, and require you to use the whitening toothpaste or mouthwash provided afterwards.

Bleaching strips

  • MACLEANS Brilliant White Dental Whitening Strips

You mould whitening strips to your teeth and leave them on for 30 minutes.

Bleach applicator

  • COLGATE Simply White Advanced Clear Whitening Gel
  • MACLEANS Brilliant White Whitening Treatment Gel

You apply whitening gel to your teeth with an applicator, and leave it on for a set time period.

Bleach and enzyme paste

  • REMBRANDT Dazzling White

This is whitening toothpaste and bleaching gel rolled into one product. You brush teeth as you normally would.