Do whitening toothpaste work?  Whitening toothpastes claim to whiten your teeth and remove stains, making them sparkly white.  So are whitening toothpastes effective?  Patients often ask during their dental check up and dental cleaning appointments if whitening toothpaste will help whiten their teeth.

A recent meta-analysis study was done comparing the effects of extrinsic tooth discolorations using whitening toothpastes and with “regular” non whitening promoting toothpastes.  The results suggest that most whitening dentifrices do improve the color of the tooth, though the color is improved with extrinsic stains, not intrinsic stains.


Whitening toothpastes work by containing fluoride, which decreases rate of tooth decay, and a mild abrasive that removes extrinsic stains to help whiten your teeth. Extrinsic tooth stains are caused by trapped dark substances in plaque that has bacteria and a pellicle.  Typical substances that causes extrinsic stains are mild consumption of wine, tea, coffee, or light smoking. Insufficient toothbrushing may also causes extrinsic stains.

Intrinsic stains are tooth discolorations internal to the tooth.  Such internal stains may be caused by heavy smoking and heavy coffee drinking over time, certain antibiotics ingested as a child, and congenital development.  Intrinsic stains are not effective via whitening toothpastes, and may require a combination of in office teeth whitening and/or porcelain crowns and veneers to improve whitening outcome.


In order for toothpaste, or dentifrice, to remove and prevent extrinsic stains it needs to contain an abrasive component.  Toothpastes made to remove such stains need to contain a greater amount of abrasive ingredients than non whitening toothpastes, and may also include minor chemical products to help with extrinsic stain removal.


From a clinical standpoint based on patient surveys and expectations, a clear evaluation on type of stain one hopes to remove is needed. If it is determined that one would like to remove mild stains caused by extrinsic factors, then whitening toothpaste may help whiten your teeth.  If however your dentist determines that your teeth has intrinsic stains, then a whitening toothpaste will likely not work and may result in disappointment.  Your family dentist can help you decide if a whitening toothpaste is appropriate for you.

From the desk of your family dentist,
Dr. Chien
(425) 614-1600

Bellevue Family Dentistry
1299 156th Ave NE #115
Bellevue, WA  98007