The Best Whitening Toothpastes Guide

Written & Reviewed by Dr David Chen

We’ve lost count of the number of toothpaste manufacturers that are currently in existence. However a more daunting task is actually combing through each one of their product lines and determining the best one to use.

What is it that separates one brand from another? Although an even better question is what separates the different toothpastes from one another within the same brand?

The options seem almost infinite but we’re here to help you out. We’ve done all of the research for you and have narrowed down the best whitening toothpastes. We’ve even picked one for each condition that you may have or want to address.

Of course since we, at afterva value transparency we’ll tell you exactly how we came to each of those decisions. These are not random picks, they WILL work as intended.

The undisputed best whitening toothpaste

Despite the dizzying array of whitening toothpastes out there, there is one that is crowned the undisputed king of them all. The Colgate Optic White pro series is hands down the best whitening toothpaste on the market.

colgate optic white pro series - on floor
Optic White Pro Series

Description: This toothpaste from Colgate is supposed to be able to remove up to 15 years of stains in just 2 weeks. It will whiten inside and out because it can remove both extrinsic and intrinsic stains.

Price: ~$10

Whitening agents: 5% hydrogen peroxide and silica

Our methodology for choosing it as the best overall whitening toothpaste

Effective whitening toothpastes must be able to remove both extrinsic and intrinsic stains. They must contain both an abrasive and a chemical agent in order to do so.

  • Extrinsic stains are mechanically removed by brushing with abrasives.
  • Intrinsic stains are chemically oxidized with hydrogen peroxide.

Being able to eliminate both the intrinsic and extrinsic stains is crucial to whitening teeth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), teeth become yellow due to the accumulation of both types of stains. If the toothpaste can only remove one type of stain but not the other, you will end up with an inferior result.

The best toothpaste for making your teeth whiter must contain all of the necessary whitening ingredients within it.

Whitening toothpastes must have an abrasive system

All whitening toothpastes utilize an abrasive system that allows it to mechanically remove extrinsic stains via brushing. According to a study in the Journal of Dentistry, the abrasive is the key functional ingredient for how whitening toothpastes work.

Logically speaking that makes complete sense because you wouldn’t be able to remove anything if the toothpaste had zero abrasivity. Brushing with a toothpaste that has no texture or roughness, wouldn’t create enough friction to remove the stain.

Commonly used abrasives in toothpastes:

  • Hydrated silicon dioxide
  • Hydrated silica
  • Calcium carbonate
  • Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
  • Silicon dioxide
  • Activated charcoal
  • Aluminium silicate

Basically as long as it contains one of the above abrasives, it will whiten your teeth by mechanically removing extrinsic stains. This is further validated by other studies which have stated that the abrasive level will determine its whitening efficacy.

However you do not want to simply use the most abrasive toothpaste that you can find because it can be harmful for your enamel. If it is too rough, it can permanently abrade the enamel away and result in tooth sensitivity.

Toothpaste RDA chart
Toothpaste RDA chart

This is why all toothpastes are assigned a RDA value (relative dentin abrasivity). Depending on the RDA, it may be safe or it could be harmful for your teeth.

  • High RDA value = potentially harmful for teeth
  • Low RDA value = safe to use on teeth

Summary: You do want your whitening toothpaste to have an abrasive system but you do NOT want it to damage your enamel. Therefore the most abrasive isn’t necessarily the best whitener (be cautious when using activated charcoal). Thankfully most of the whitening toothpastes are safe to use since they’re all within the RDA safety limits.

Effective whitening toothpastes must contain hydrogen peroxide

The only way to remove intrinsic teeth staining is by chemical oxidation with hydrogen peroxide. A chemical is needed because mechanical brushing can only reach the exterior of the tooth but not the interior of it. In other words, an abrasive will never get rid of any intrinsic stains.

Hydrogen peroxide on the other hand possesses the ability to diffuse through the tooth and even reach the pulp. Along the way it oxidizes all of the intrinsic stains that are embedded in the organic matrices of each layer of the tooth. That is essentially how hydrogen peroxide whitens your teeth.

Peroxide provides a means of removing intrinsic stains which abrasives lack. For this reason alone, whitening toothpastes without hydrogen peroxide are inherently less effective than those with it.

Obviously being able to remove both types of teeth stains would whiten your teeth more than just removing only one type. This is why whitening toothpaste must contain peroxide in order to be a contender for best whitening toothpaste.

In fact, the determinant factor for why Colgate Optic White pro series is the best is because it contains the highest concentration of hydrogen peroxide (5%). It also contains the abrasive silica but to reiterate the most abrasive isn’t the safest to use! This is why we value peroxide concentration above abrasiveness.

  • A runner up would be the Crest 3D white professional ultra white toothpaste which contains 4% hydrogen peroxide.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The Pros:

  • Highest percentage of hydrogen peroxide in a toothpaste
  • Removes both intrinsic and extrinsic stains
  • Safe for daily use
  • Can be used for smokers and tobacco
  • Braces are okay as well

The Cons:

  • Small quantity of 3 oz per tube
  • May make your teeth sensitive
  • Individuals with sensitive teeth may not be able to use it

Related content: Colgate created an entire line of toothpastes that are dedicated towards whitening teeth called Optic White. For the most part, colgate optic white does work but you need to choose the right product for you, which we’ve already written about.

Best for whitening sensitive teeth (peroxide free)

Whitening toothpastes for those with sensitive teeth should not contain any peroxide since sensitivity is an adverse side effect from using it. In lieu of peroxide, the dentifrice should contain anti-sensitivity agents instead. Therefore the best whitening toothpaste for sensitive teeth would be Apadent Sensitive toothpaste.

  • The runner ups are Toothpaste PrevDent nHAp, GUM SensiVital+, and WhiteWashLaboratories.
Apadent Sensitive
Apadent Sensitive

Description: This toothpaste from Sangi has a dual anti-sensitivity effect from nano-hydroxyapatite in addition to the classic potassium nitrate (which is found in sensodyne).

Price: $20-25

Whitening agents: Silica

Anti-sensitivity: nano-hydroxyapatite and potassium nitrate

Our methodology for choosing it as the best whitening sensitive toothpaste

Whitening for individuals with sensitive teeth presents a unique challenge because peroxide is known to cause teeth sensitivity. According to studies, sensitivity and white gums were the two most common adverse effects from whitening.

Therefore it is ideal for these whitening toothpastes to have these qualities:

  • Peroxide-free
  • Contains anti-sensitivity agents

Peroxide free whitening is a must for sensitive teeth

Since hydrogen peroxide causes teeth sensitivity, you will have to rely on the abrasive system for whitening your teeth. What that means is you will only be able to remove extrinsic stains if your teeth are sensitive. You need the peroxide in order to oxidize the intrinsic stains but you can’t use it due to sensitivity issues.

That is a trade off that you must make if you don’t want to aggravate your sensitivity.

Also as an additional piece of information, there are quite a few toothpastes out there that market themselves as “peroxide-free whitening“. One such whitening agent is called Phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid (PAP).

What you should be aware of is that PAP is a synthetic organic peroxy acid, which is made by adding sulfuric acid to hydrogen peroxide. Therefore peroxide is actually a base ingredient in the manufacture of PAP.

The question is, would you truly consider that peroxide-free?

Should have anti-sensitivity agents

The best way to reduce teeth sensitivity is by adding an anti-sensitivity agent to the whitening toothpaste. The most commonly used ingredient would be potassium nitrate, which is found in the entire line of Sensodyne toothpastes.

According to studies, potassium nitrate desensitizes your teeth by preventing the depolarization of your tooth nerve endings. In other words, the nerve is unable to send sensitivity and pain signals thus making you feel no discomfort at all.

There have been an abundance of studies, displaying the efficacy of sensitivity reduction with potassium nitrate. In fact, that study tested using the desensitizer 30 minutes prior to tooth bleaching. The overall result was a significant reduction in post-operative sensitivity.

New desensitizer – nano-hydroxyapatite

However there has been a new anti-sensitivity agent that has emerged called nano-hydroxyapatite. This substance can desensitize your teeth by physically occluding the dentinal tubules which lead straight to your tooth nerve. Since the path is blocked, no sensitivity signals will be elicited.

Various studies have demonstrated the anti-sensitivity effect of nano-hydroxyapatite. In fact, there have been quite a few claims that nano-hydroxyapatite is actually superior to potassium nitrate in terms of desensitizing.

However, in order to attain the maximum amount of teeth desensitization the question isn’t which one is better. It isn’t an either or question because the answer to is to actually use BOTH of them.

One study in Medicine, Materials and Sciences showed that the addition of potassium nitrate to nano-hydroxyapatite actually enhanced the tubule clogging action. This means that the two ingredients are actually synergistic. Therefore the anti-sensitivity effect is theoretically greater when used together rather than separately.

For this reason alone, we would have to say that toothpastes which contain BOTH potassium nitrate and nano-hydroxyapatite would make for the best whitening toothpaste for those with sensitive teeth. The best sensitive whitening toothpaste is Apadent Sensitive since it does contain both.

  • We rank Apadent Sensitive as number one because they were the first commercial manufacturer of hydroxyapatite toothpaste.
  • There are other toothpastes that contain both ingredients such as Toothpaste PreveDent nHAp, GUM SensiVital+, and WhiteWashLaboratories.

We recognize and understand that NONE of these toothpastes are American brands. They’re all from Japan, Netherlands, Germany, and the UK. Unfortunately the United States is a bit behind in desensitizing toothpaste technology.

Davids sensitive+whitening toothpaste - contents unpackaged
Sensodyne gentle whitening

You can still find all of them for sale online but if you want american made we would recommend maybe combining Davids toothpaste (hydroxyapatite) with Sensodyne pronamel gentle whitening (potassium nitrate). You can put half of each on your toothbrush and brush with it to achieve the same effect!

Advantages and Disadvantages

The Pros:

  • Desensitizes your teeth
  • The hydroxyapatite can prevent and reverse cavities

The Cons:

  • No peroxide so can’t remove intrinsic stains
  • Fairly expensive

Unfortunately if you have sensitive teeth, this won’t exactly be the best way to whiten your teeth. However this whitening toothpaste will be the best for decreasing your sensitivity.

If you need something more potent, you may want to give the peroxide based whitening toothpastes a try and see how you handle the sensitivity. You can always switch back to this anti-sensitivity one if it becomes too much to handle.

Best natural whitening toothpaste (fluoride-free)

There has been a trend towards healthier all natural organic products and whitening toothpaste is no exception. What we consider natural would be fluoride-free as well as peroxide-free.

We couldn’t really find a reason to rank one above the other so we’re going to give a tie to a couple of natural toothpastes in no particular order.

Davids sensitive+whitening toothpaste with metal tube key inserted
risewell toothpaste - unboxed next to the open box
Dr brite Extreme Whitening Toothpaste

Description: They are ALL fluoride free and hydrogen peroxide free. All sourced with natural ingredients for the health conscious consumers.

Price: $10-14

Whitening agents: Calcium carbonate, Silica, Hydrated silica, Sodium bicarbonate

Anti-sensitivity: nano-hydroxyapatite

Our methodology for choosing it as the best all natural whitening toothpaste

Since we’re choosing based on all natural ingredients, we had to exclude all of the fluoride and peroxide based toothpastes. Unfortunately this leaves us with only the abrasive whitening system. That means this whitening choice will only be removing extrinsic stains and not intrinsic ones.

Aside from that an additional characteristic which we feel is important is one that can prevent cavities and also desensitize the teeth. Basically what we’ll be looking for is a toothpaste with nano-hydroxyapatite.

Toothpastes with hydroxyapatite (HAp) have been found to be equally as effective as fluoride in remineralizing teeth from decay. Due to that reason alone, it has been touted as being a fluoride alternative for those who are adverse to excessive fluoride intake.

We believe the remineralization capabilities of HAp makes it superior over other natural toothpastes such as xylitol, charcoal, and various herbal dentifrices. The non-HAp toothpastes do not possess the ability to remineralize a tooth from decay. That makes the hydroxyapatite toothpaste inherently superior to them in every way imaginable.

Therefore, our preferred choice for an all natural toothpaste that can whiten your teeth would be one that contains nano-hydroxyapatite. All of the four choices which we’ve listed above contain it so they’re all good picks! We try to be more brand agnostic so feel free to use whichever one you want.

Related content: What fluoride can do for teeth. Just so you have an idea of what you may be missing out if you choose to go fluoride-free!

Advantages and Disadvantages

The Pros:

  • Desensitizes your teeth
  • Stop and reverse cavities
  • Relatively affordable
  • Fluoride free

The Cons:

  • Can’t remove intrinsic stains due to lack of hydrogen peroxide

Just to be clear, hydroxyapatite is still considered natural despite its chemically sounding name because your teeth are made of the same substance. In fact even your bones are made of it as well because it is actually the mineral which gives it its hardness. Your enamel contains more of it than your bone and that is why the enamel is the hardest substance in your body.

We suppose the only downside to choosing an all natural toothpaste is that it doesn’t contain hydrogen peroxide. That means it will never be able to get rid of deeply embedded intrinsic stains which make your teeth yellow.

You’ll most likely brush your teeth everyday but they’ll still look yellow. If that sounds like your situation, you may want to give the peroxide based toothpastes a try. You won’t be disappointed if you give the Colgate Optic White pro series a try.

Most eco-friendly

If sustainability and eco-friendliness is your utmost priority, we believe the Bite Toothpaste Bits will win your heart as the best whitening toothpaste.

Bite toothpaste bits
Bite Toothpaste Bits

Description: This isn’t a toothpaste per say but more of a toothpaste tablet. It comes in the most eco-friendly and sustainable packaging known to man.

Price: $48

Whitening agents: Calcium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)

Anti-sensitivity: fluoride-free version comes with nano-hydroxyapatite

Methodology for choosing this product

It is hard to disagree with Bite’s claims that it is the most sustainable toothpaste in the world. The entire product is marketed as zero waste.

  • It comes in a recyclable glass jar instead of the traditional plastic tube.
  • Cruelty-free and 100% vegan.
  • Refills come in compostable packaging.
  • Clean all natural ingredients.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The Pros:

  • Desensitizes your teeth
  • Stop and reverse cavities
  • Can be fluoride free
  • Zero waste packaging

The Cons:

  • One of the most expensive toothpaste options
  • No peroxide so can’t get rid of intrinsic stains.
  • Requires chewing to activate the tablets

Frequently Asked Questions

Does whitening toothpaste actually work?

Yes, all whitening toothpastes do possess the ability to remove extrinsic stains since they all utilize an abrasive system. This works by mechanically abrading the surface stains on your teeth to make them appear whiter.

However, removal of just the exterior stains may not be enough for some people because they may have intrinsic stains as well. Unfortunately abrasives are ineffective for removing the intrinsic ones since they can’t reach them. The only way to get rid of these is with a chemical agent that can oxidize them such as peroxide.

If your teeth aren’t as white as you like them to be despite using a whitening toothpaste, you may want to opt for using a peroxide based toothpaste instead. These will give you the capability to remove both extrinsic and intrinsic stains. This is why in our opinion the most effective whitening toothpaste is one which contains a high concentration of peroxide.

Will daily whitening damage my teeth?

All of the whitening toothpastes that are approved with the seal from the ADA are safe to use on the enamel. Their abrasivity should all be within the safety limits. If you are ever unsure, you should find out what the RDA value of your toothpaste is. A safer toothpaste will have a lower RDA value.

The peroxide within whitening toothpaste are relatively safe to use since they are low in concentration when compared to in-office whitening products. According to the toxicology department of the public health of England, peroxide gets rapidly detoxified so only trace amounts even enter the blood.

Apparently the reason is that our saliva contains a lot of enzymes that break down the peroxide. It is a natural defensive mechanism against the bacteria in our mouth that produce hydrogen peroxide.

Will it increase teeth sensitivity?

A peroxide based whitening toothpaste may lead to increased teeth sensitivity because that is a natural side effect of bleaching your teeth. However the sensitivity will always be less than other whitening products with higher concentrations of peroxide.

The strongest whitening toothpaste is the colgate optic white which comes in a 5% peroxide solution. That is still significantly less than the 40% concentration that the in-office Opalesence Boost treatment comes in.

opalesence boost in-office

Fortunately the sensitivity from peroxide is only mild and transient. As soon as you stop using the product, it should return back to normal with a few days.

The Verdict – The absolute best whitening toothpaste

The best whitening toothpaste is the Colgate optic white pro series because it is literally peerless. It has abrasives which means it can remove extrinsic stains when you brush with it for at least two minutes. It also has the highest concentration of hydrogen peroxide so it can oxidize intrinsic stains.

There isn’t another toothpaste on the market with the same concentration of peroxide as it. The only runner up for the title is the Crest 3D white professional ultra white toothpaste which has 4% hydrogen peroxide. That is 20% less effective than the colgate.

We did give recommendations for other whitening toothpastes in different categories but let’s be honest here… none of them will even come close to the whitening capability as the optic white.

Nonetheless, the decision is yours to make.


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