Staining and Whitening Toothpaste


Becky Larson, RDH

Staining and Whitening Toothpaste

What’s the deal with whitening toothpaste?  Does it really work?

First off, let’s talk about what causes teeth to become discolored or less white.  The main cause is food.  Any foods that contain dark pigment can leave dark stains on the teeth.  These include coffee, tea, soda, wine, chocolate, dark fruits, etc.  Smoking or using tobacco products can also leave dark stains.  If plaque is not removed thoroughly from the tooth surface, it can harden and has a yellow appearance.  Most of these stains can be prevented or removed.  The only real way to prevent dark stains from adhering to the teeth is not eat or drink the foods that cause the staining.  Plaque that has hardened over time will need to be removed by your dental hygienist.  If cutting these foods or drinks out is not ideal, brushing with toothpaste before and rinsing with plain water after can help reduce the amount of stain present. Efforts to reduce the amount of plaque left include brushing with an electric toothbrush twice daily for 2 minutes and use the “C” shape method of flossing where the floss is wrapped around the lateral side of the tooth while flossing.

Using a whitening toothpaste can also help reduce surface stains as well.  Many toothpaste brands offer whitening toothpastes.  In our offices we offer the Colgate Optic White toothpaste.  While all toothpastes can remove surface stains because of mild abrasive ingredients, the whitening toothpastes tend to be slightly more abrasive to further remove those tough coffee, tea, or tobacco stains left on the teeth.  The Colgate Optic White does contain hydrogen peroxide, which has a history as a bleaching agent.  However, in toothpaste, the hydrogen peroxide usually combines with other ingredients (such as baking soda) and helps to polish and wear away surface stains left on the teeth.  Usually whitening toothpastes can help whiten teeth up to about 1 shade lighter, where as in office bleaching can whiten 3-8 times lighter.

If you are worried about staining on your teeth please talk to your dentist or dental hygienist to see which products would be best for you.  Happy brushing!

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