Ask LH: Should I Use Whitening Toothpaste?

Dear Lifehacker, I am thinking of purchasing some whitening toothpaste to try and get my teeth a few shades whiter. Does it actually work? Any recommendations? Thanks, Pearly Whites

Moth picture from Shutterstock

Dear PW,

It depends on who you ask. Some people swear that whitening toothpaste really does improve their smile, while others dismiss it as snake oil for gobs. Firsthand testing is pretty inconclusive one way or the other.

During an in-depth CHOICE study, around half of participants didn't notice any difference at all. Of the remaining participants, most only noticed a very small change -- which may have been the result of all that extra brushing.

Of the 22 brands tested by CHOICE, only WHITE GLO Extra Strength Professional Choice produced results that were significantly better than the average. This product purportedly contains a whitening formulation that will lighten discolouration and yellowing on tooth enamel caused by food and drinks. You can find out more about it here.

If you're looking for a short-term solution that provides quick results, Oral-B’s 3D White might be a better bet. This is a three-step teeth whitening system that uses hydrogen peroxide to give you whiter teeth in just two days.

Our PopSugar colleague Laura Wilson recently tested this product on her own teeth and the results were pretty impressive. Here are how her teeth looked before and after the two-day treatment:

"I didn't wake up with Delta Goodrem's teeth, but after seeing the results and using the range for literally 48 hours, I at least feel like I'm a little closer," Laura explains.

"Not only are all of my teeth noticeably whiter (and I mean, my boyfriend commented — unheard of!) I have seen the biggest change in my canines. Success! I've definitely made the decision to swap out my usual toothpaste and mouthwash for this whitening system." (You can read the full PopSugar report here and here.)

It's worth noting that Laura didn't have problematic chompers to begin with, which may have skewed the results somewhat. If your teeth are noticeably yellow, you should probably have them assessed by a dentist first -- no matter how effective whitening toothpaste is, some stains and discolourations can only be removed via professional treatments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    I just had a filling done yesterday... one of only two small one I might add... :)
    I asked him how much a professional whitening would cost... Ball park up to $800....
    No teeth cleaning for me..! :)

      Then youre seriously being ripped off.
      For teeth moulds to be made and then to buy a kit of peroxide whitening gel (12 syringes, about 18 doses worth), $360.

        Hey.. I can only go on what I was told, and from what I was told, it depends on how stained your teeth are. As for being ripped off, I was only enquiring out of curiosity, seeing as I was there in the moment, he did mention the various alternatives...!

        Last edited 03/05/14 9:22 am

      My dentist in Bangkok charges about $250 for laser whitening. The airfare is about $500. And you get a holiday thrown in.

    Whitening toothpastes do a fairly good job in terms of maintaining white teeth but they are ineffective when it comes to discoloured or very stained teeth. Whitening toothpastes remove minor stain buildup through abrasion, while actual whitening treatments contain peroxide and other bleaching agents.
    Professional whitening treatments are pricey but have a dramatic effect, and some health funds actually pay benefits for in-dentist teeth whitening.
    White strips are a great supermarket alternative to the cheap-but-ineffective whitening toothpastes and the costly-but-effective professional treatments. With white strips you will definitely notice a difference, however, concentrated staining is more difficult to remove this way. Also, unless you give up the vices that likely stained your teeth - smoking, red wine, cola, coffee, chocolate, etc - you'll need to keep whitening your teeth periodically.

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