Yellow, gray or dull teeth are often thought to be markers of poor dental hygiene or bad habits, like smoking. The perception that shining, white teeth are the epitome of health and style have led many people to search for solutions to lift their discolouration. Professional options, such as bleaching treatments with your dentist or whitening products to be used at home, can be extremely effective, but also extremely expensive.Instead, many people turn to the relatively cheap solution of whitening toothpaste.
While it can be hard to judge results, it isn’t uncommon for regular users of whitening toothpaste to be disappointed with the amount of tooth lightening that actually occurs because, contrary to popular belief, whitening toothpastes can’t actually change the colour of your teeth. If your teeth are naturally a little yellow, using this kind of treatment will not suddenly give you gleaming, pearly gnashers. The only way it would work is if that is what your your teeth naturally look like.
The main reason for this is that whitening toothpastes only work at a surface level. They can be effective at removing very superficial stains, caused by red wine or coffee for example, but cannot work on any discolouration that goes deeper than the surface, and can’t change the actual colour of your enamel. For someone who wants to maintain a natural, white colour, a whitening toothpaste could be helpful, but it
is unlikely to make much of a difference to anyone looking for radical lightening.
Plus, whitening toothpastes are made up of abrasives which work to scrub away any impurities from the surface of your enamel, and so could have the opposite effect. If the top layer of enamel is scrubbed away a substance called dentine, which is present below all of our enamel, may be revealed, and dentine is naturally much darker in colour than enamel. Even more worryingly, this could lead to tooth sensitivity as enamel which has been worn away cannot be easily replaced.
Relying on such techniques also mean whitening toothpastes don’t contain peroxide, the ingredient used in professional treatments to bleach teeth and counteract discolouration. When used safely, bleaching is much more effective for severely yellowed or naturally dull teeth than whitening toothpaste.
It could initially appear as if your whitening toothpaste is working, though. Some pastes contain a chemical called blue covarine, which adheres to the surface of the tooth to create the illusion of lighter, whiter gnashers. It can also help to prevent further staining, but again will not change the actual colour of your teeth.
If you’re worried about discolouration, the best thing you can do is speak to your dentist about the options available to you. You can also try brushing your teeth more frequently, especially after consuming things that are likely to stain your teeth like coffee, wine, chocolate, or even fruits such as blueberries. A good electric toothbrush can also go a long way, cleaning the teeth better. Make sure to drink plenty of water while eating these kinds of foods, or after you smoke (if you’re a smoker). And ensure you’re using a toothpaste that contains fluoride, as this is the best way to keep your teeth clean and healthy. An alternative would be to try activated charcoal, which are designed to whiten teeth better than whitening toothpaste.