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8 Best Whitening Toothpastes of 2023, According to Dentists

Apr 02, 2024

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Help your pearly whites sparkle with these expert-recommended picks.

If you're looking to increase the wattage on your smile, there are a gazillion ways to upgrade your oral care routine, from teeth whitening kits to electric toothbrushes. But one of the easiest and most affordable ways to tackle stubborn stains is using an effective whitening toothpaste.

To help you find the best whitening toothpaste for your needs, our editors complied a list of top picks, which includes products tested by the Good Housekeeping Institute as well as recommendations from board-certified dentists.

Whitening toothpastes are designed to remove surface stains caused by coffee, wine and similar substances. But don't be alarmed if you spot hydrogen peroxide on ingredient lists: Toothpastes typically contain low concentrations of this active teeth-whitening agent to effectively bleach teeth. Additionally, they may also include mildly abrasive components that are powerful enough to eliminate stains but gentle enough to avoid damaging the enamel, according to board-certified cosmetic dentist Richard Lipari, D.D.S.

However, it's important to note that not all ingredients are created equal, and certain whitening products can potentially lead to tooth sensitivity. To address these concerns and ensure optimal dental health, we consulted dental experts to provide valuable insights and share the toothpastes they recommend to their own patients.

Noticeably brighten and whiten teeth while brushing with Colgate’s game-changing whitening toothpaste, a GH Beauty Award winner. The formula contains high levels of bleaching active hydrogen peroxide to brighten teeth one to two shades lighter, fast.

After analyzing the brand's data, our experts in the GH Beauty Lab confirm that this formula can remove up to 10 years of yellow stains on teeth in only four weeks of twice-daily use. "It works!" one Walmart reviewer raved. "I drink a lot of coffee and tea, and I noticed that my teeth are so much whiter after using this toothpaste."

Colgate Optic White contains gentle abrasives to scrub stains and polish teeth. It's the only American Dental Association-approved bleaching toothpaste that is formulated with fluoride for cavity prevention. It forms a protective layer on teeth, allowing the hydrogen peroxide to continue its whitening action beyond time spent actively brushing.

Ingredients: Hydrogen peroxide, hydrated silica, fluoride | Size: 3 oz.

This formula harnesses the power of Arm & Hammer baking soda to naturally lift stains. Grace Yum, D.D.S., a board-certified pediatric dentist in Chicago, says dentists in her office who treated college kids and parents used this toothpaste to keep their teeth white after professional in-office bleaching.

The brand claims it gently removes up to three times more plaque even in hard-to-brush places. Those who've ever tried baking soda as a teeth whitener know that it comes with a bit of a grimace, though: "Not the greatest-tasting, but that is a small sacrifice for healthy teeth and gums," says one shopper.

Ingredients: Sodium Bicarbonate | Size: 6 oz

Get a professional-looking polish without the major markup. Lauren Becker, D.D.S., a general and cosmetic dentist in New York City, names the Crest HD two-step whitening system as her favorite over-the-counter whitening product that "gives patients noticeable results in under a week's time."

Carving out less time than whitening strips, the two-minute application substitutes your normal brushing routine. The first step cleanser helps remove plaque and protects against sensitivity, while the second step contains whitening and brightening hydrogen peroxide, says Dr. Becker. Not to mention, unlike strips, these whiten the back of your teeth, too.

Ingredients: Stannous fluoride, hydrated silica and hydrogen peroxide | Size: 4 oz and 2.3 oz

Catering to both sensitive teeth and gums, the Crest Pro-Health Gum and Sensitivity toothpaste garners notoriety for its effective (yet gentle) stain-lifting powers. In fact, it's the only ADA-approved toothpaste that targets both sensitivity relief and whitening, an anomaly in whitening toothpaste.

The formula goes by route of less aggressive surface stain removers like hydrated silica and stannous fluoride, a known favorable ingredient for sensitive teeth, according to Dr. Becker. This Crest formula offers a light minty-fresh taste that shoppers say tastes great. It also boasts a foamy formula sans grittiness. Most online reviewers reported noticeable whitening effects after about four weeks of use, which is longer than some other picks, but still effective.

Ingredients: Stannous fluoride, hydrated silica | Size: 4.1 oz

No need to dread the teeth-scraping portion of your next dental cleaning. Switching to the Colgate toothpaste about three months prior to her dental visit, Birnur K. Aral, Ph.D., the executive director of the GH Beauty Lab, heard praise from her own dentist for the significantly less plaque buildup on her teeth. "I am happy I found a toothpaste that can keep plaque under control and has whitening properties at the same time!" she says.

This multi-tasking Colgate toothpaste helps fight cavities, whiten teeth and dissolve plaque, the latter of which may be thanks to its hydrated silica. In addition to whitening power, it also has gentle stannous fluoride that works to offset the sensitivity some people experience when using whitening toothpaste. Many shoppers enjoyed the refreshing feeling, but others found it a bit strong at first.

Ingredients: Stannous fluoride, hydrated silica | Size: 3.4 oz

Those with sensitive teeth who want pearly whites without that harsh pang from sipping a cold beverage: Enter Sensodyne. Dr. Lipari recommends this extra whitening pick for his patients with sensitive teeth. Rather than focusing on brightening alone, it also uses a dose of stannous fluoride, which prevents sensitivity and hardens the tooth surface. The hydrated silica gently scrubs stains while potassium nitrate protects teeth against sensitivity. Its formula claims to decrease sensitivity after two weeks of regular use.

One GH editor and her entire family use Sensodyne. "It's great if you already have sensitive teeth and gums but don't want to slack on the whitening. Online reviewers echoed that sentiment, writing: "If you have sensitive gums, please do yourself a favor and try this!"

Ingredients: Potassium nitrate, hydrated silica, sodium fluoride | Size: 4 oz

Standing out among "natural" toothpaste brands by earning ADA approval, Tom's of Maine Simply White is a shining example of why the brand is well known in the natural products realm. For those who wish to steer clear of conventional toothpaste due to worries about ingredients, production methods or personal preferences, this selection is a suitable natural alternative that still whitens teeth.

Similar to most whitening toothpaste options, it's formulated with hydrated silicas to effectively remove surface stains and fluoride for cavity prevention. One GH editor enjoyed its subtle minty freshness but found it offered more of a gel-like consistency than a traditional thick paste, as a matter of personal preference.

Ingredients: Hydrated silica and fluoride | Size: 5.5 oz

No need to think twice when reaching for this whitening toothpaste. Jonathan B. Levine, D.M.D., a board-certified dentist and an associate professor at the NYU School of Dentistry, recommends the TWICE toothpaste line because it's "ingredients that are safe and help to remineralize the teeth" with its low abrasive index numbers. Translation: It's gentler on teeth.

It's made with vitamins A, E and aloe vera that the brand claims to support gum health and freshen breath. Several online reviewers called it "refreshing" and agreed that it left breath smelling better. "This toothpaste is so good!" an online shopper raves. "I love the taste and the feel: Super clean and very fresh! My teeth are even a little whiter."

Ingredients: Potassium nitrate and hydrated silica | Size: 3.4 oz

The GH Institute's Beauty Lab rigorously tests all types of oral care, including water flossers, toothpaste, whitening strips and more. For past whitening product tests, scientists measure testers' tooth shades under standardized lighting before and after using a label-masked teeth whitening product as directed over a specified time period to gauge changes in tooth color.

Testers also evaluate the products at home on factors such as ease of use, flavor, tooth sensitivity, cleaning efficacy (if applicable) and perceived whitening effects. Beauty Lab scientists then tally hundreds of data points to determine the top performers. While we haven't tested this category at large, the picks we included on this list were either approved by dentists, analyzed by our team of chemists or have ADA acceptance, meaning the organization supports that its efficacy and safety claims are backed up by clinical research.

✔️ Active ingredients: The dentists we spoke with unanimously agreed that bleaching agents hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide are key ingredients in whitening toothpaste. For peroxide ingredients, the maximum percentage is 10% for over-the-counter products, says Sharon Huang, D.D.S., M.I.C.O.I., a cosmetic dentist and founder of Les Belles NYC. Hydrated silica acts as a polishing agent to help remove stains. Baking soda also works to that effect while raising oral pH, adds Dr. Levine. Low pH levels mean high acidity, which can lead to demineralization, or the layer of protective enamel wearing down. This can make teeth more prone to cavities and other damage.

✔️ Sensitive-friendly formulas: Those with sensitive teeth may look for a formula with potassium nitrate, which is known to reduce sensitivity. Fluoride also helps prevent sensitivity and hardens the tooth's surface, according to a study. There are also products that don’t contain peroxide and instead are made with ingredients like aloe vera and coconut oil, which have natural whitening effects that pull stains from the teeth, according to Dr. Huang. "They're not as effective as peroxide, but are a good natural option that’s gentler on the teeth," she notes.

You can use whitening toothpaste a few times a week and then switch over to a toothpaste that has fluoride and/or potassium nitrate to help with sensitivity and demineralization, according to Dr. Levine. Check that the Relative Dentin Abrasion (RDA), or the abrasive index, is low, which means it gently removes stains off the surface of teeth. High RDA can strip away your enamel, and it doesn’t grow back, he says. Typically, you won't find these printed on a label. And while there are RDA index charts out there, it's best to check in with your dentist to be sure.

Everyone’s teeth are different. Talk to your dentist about what’s best for you. Dr. Lipari notes that at-home whitening products tend to have a lower concentration of whitening agents so it's less likely to cause sensitivity. However, whitening toothpastes contain abrasives that can strip the enamel over time, so it's best not to use long term. Also, if you’re finding your teeth to be more sensitive, look for formulas that have stannous fluoride or potassium nitrate.

Typically within two to six weeks of use, though that all varies based on which toothpaste is used and how much staining there is, according to Dr. Becker.

Technically, darker beverages like wine or coffee stain your teeth. While lessening that habit may be ideal, Dr. Becker simply advises to take proper care of your teeth to avoid erosion and staining. That means brushing twice daily, flossing frequently and regular dental checkups.

Jacqueline Saguin is a commerce editor at the GH Institute where she covers all things beauty. Through collaboration with the scientists and chemists at the GH Beauty Lab, Jacqueline has a finger on the pulse of top-tested makeup, skincare and health products in order to make informed picks for our readers. To round out this guide, she interviewed several board-certified dentists for their recommendations and expert advice. Birnur K. Aral, Ph.D., the executive director of the GH Beauty Lab, weighed in on whitening toothpaste picks.

Jacqueline (she/her) covers all things e-commerce in beauty, lifestyle and beyond for the Good Housekeeping Institute. Before joining GH in 2021, she was a style and beauty reviews fellow at Insider, testing viral trends, reviewing sustainable brands and more. She's a graduate of the University of Florida's School of Journalism, with a specialty in magazines and mass communication.

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