Stop Wasting Money On Whitening Toothpaste!

As a dental hygienist, I am here to tell you to stop wasting your precious hard earned dollars on toothpastes that claim to ”whiten” your teeth. You see, I’m going to let you in on a little dental secret that toothpaste companies are going to hate me for…

There is no active whitening product in your ‘whitening’ toothpaste to brighten your pearly whites. Nadda. Ziltch. Nothing. 

It’s all clever marketing by the big brands to get you to buy their products because, and this is a fact, every, single toothpaste currently available to purchase can make the claim that it is a ‘whitening’ toothpaste.

The Abrasive Factor

It’s the abrasiveness of the toothpaste that ‘whitens’, not an active whitening product.

All toothpaste has some form of abrasiveness, from mild- standard Crest, to hard- Arm and Hammer, that is added to remove the daily grime and extrinsic stains from your teeth. Sort of like a super mild version of the professional polishing you receive from your hygienist.

The mechanical effort put forth by you, combined with the mild abrasiveness of the toothpaste is what whitens your teeth.

All this time your superman powers were what what causing the whitening, not the paste!

But my toothpastes lists a bleaching agent in the ingredients!

Check again my friends, if they do add an agent to the toothpaste, it will be listed in the ‘non-active’ ingredients section, get out your spectacles and check yourself. No active bleaching agent is stable enough for toothpastes.

If you want to whiten your teeth you have to apply a bleaching product for a long period of time (minimum 30 mins/day), consistently, for a number or days to get the desired effect. Applying a dab of toothpaste and promptly spitting it out after 45 seconds will not have any effect.

Your teeth will only get so white.

Some people naturally have very white teeth or teeth that accept beach very well and can lighten, not everyone is so lucky so if you’ve tried a bleaching product with little success, you can thank your parents for their genetics. Most drug store brands-for example Crest White Strips-are potent enough for the average individual. Dental office potency may be needed for bleaching hard stains such as long term smokers though.

Media has done a bang-up job on falsifying the truth, again. Most of the white teeth you see on media are the above mentioned people who accept bleach well, or they have veneers on their teeth, so stop beating yourself up.

Oh, and just to annoy dental product companies off more, stop buying their whitening mouthwash too.

Swishing and spitting after 30 seconds has zero effect.

I’m not saying mouthwash isn’t good, although most people don’t need it for it’s intended effect. If you brush properly and have little to no bacterial or ‘inflammatory gum’ issues, the therapeutic benefits of mouthwash aren’t really needed. Most people use it to ‘freshen’ their breath, which is fine. Good ‘ol Listerine is the gold standard for mouthwash (although if you are a smoker please use a non-alcohol containing one such as Crest Pro-Health. The #1 cause of oral cancer is smoking, #2 alcohol use and #3 smoking and alcohol combined.

If you do decide to whiten your teeth, please remember that the whitest part of your face should be the whites of your eyes. As humans our eyes are naturally attracted to the brightest part of someone’s face, if the teeth are brighter than the whites of their eyes it can be very distracting. We’ve all seen these people. I’m sorry if I’ve burst anyone’s bubble, just looking out for your pocketbooks!


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  1. Great post! I always thought it was a scam. I’m sure you get some great stories in the office. My sister is a dentist and she’s heard it all as to why people have poor oral hygeine. One fellow was allergic to all toothpastes and another though that if he ate a apple a day, he didn’t have to brush. I usually get whatever tootpaste is .99 cents or less.

    • You have no idea. I think my favorite line was (and this woman was totally serious) ” I thought you only needed to brush the tops of your teeth” after I explained she needed to be working better at brushing all surfaces…hmm…Toothpaste is really just a vehicle for fluoride so whatever you like will work (unless you’re having an issue like sensitivity- that toothpaste has legit desensitizers in it).

  2. good to know. thanks!

  3. Nice post. I figured it was a scam as many marketing things can tend to be. I find it amusing that the effort you put forward is what whitens your teeth, along with the ingredients in the toothpaste. So, if you’re lazy while brushing, then you may not have that white of teeth. I’ll have to pass this on to my younger brother as he’s convinced he can get blindingly white teeth by using the special toothpaste.

    • Thanks John, teeth whitening is a multi-million dollar market, it’s sheer insanity in my mind. Don’t get me wrong I’d rather now walk around with big yellow teeth or anything but I don’t do anything special and my teeth are nice and healthy (mind you I’m a non-smoker and don’t drink a ton of coffee/tea/red wine which also helps). Let me know if you brother has anything to say!

  4. Hehe… I read this a while ago elsewhere, and it is still a good tip! I still buy regular colgate toothpaste and I haven’t had any problems in years.

  5. I’ve always thought that teeth whiting was a totally bogus claim! Thanks for bring this to light. On the “whitest part of your face” thing, it reminds me of an old episode of Friends where Ross gets his teeth whitened so much that they actually glow in the dark. It was pretty hilarious …

  6. I had no idea that an alcohol based mouthwash could be bad for smokers. I knew those toothpaste didn’t do much, but thank you for confirming that they do absolutely nothing!

    • Alcohol is alcohol! Mouthwash included (although you can get alcohol free) limiting it while smoking is recommended in all areas, oral hygiene included 🙂

  7. I’ve always been told that the whites of your eyes, your teeth, and your pearls should all be the same shade of white. =) Old fashioned advice, but I like it!

  8. Thanks for sharing this! I had no idea it didn’t have any extra “whitening” additive. Definitely something to avoid!

  9. This is such a great post. I love it when I learn something and save a little moolah in the process. What’s your take on whitening brands? Do you think “off brand” whitening strips work just as well as the rest?
    Thanks again for the great post. Going to tweet tweet about it now. 🙂

    • Are you talking about the ”white strips”? I think they’re all fairly comparable. Crest has the most money invested in the market so you hear the most about their white strips but the other brands competing against them are quite similar in potency and product although it’s really a personal choice!

  10. Excellent post, thanks for the tips!

  11. justin@thefrugalpath says:

    My wife buys whichever brand is free. We are by no means “extreme” couponers, but free toothpaste is so easy to get.
    Thanks for letting us know about the whitening. When we do choose our toothpastes we’ll pick the others.

    • For sure! I’m not saying don’t buy it if it’s on sale, it does it’s job but don’t spend extra money expecting results!

  12. I had no idea! Thanks for saving me a small fortune 😉

  13. Lol, I didn’t know that! Thanks for the tips!! I have about a year’s worth of toothpaste probably so I won’t be buying any soon anyway!!!

  14. This is great to know! I didn’t even know this.

  15. Good to know, thanks for educating moi on things I know nothing about. Good thing I’m usually too cheap or dislike the taste of those “whitening” toothpastes!

  16. There’s another product to take off the list of things I need to get at the supermarket. Thanks!

  17. Thanks for sharing the secrets, Catherine! I’ve got naturally white-ish teeth. I don’t do anything special, (just brush) but definitely don’t abstain from my coffee and blueberries. Still, I’ve been asked what whitening products I use, even by my hygienist…and I don’t use any! That’s why I know you’re absolutely right–it’s got to be mostly genetic. Thanks for looking out for our checkbooks! Teeth-whitening is one of those things that everyone thinks they need…but we are all so jaded by ridiculous celebrities. Also, I think a lot of people have no clue that the celeb’s pearly whites that they’re seeing were actually bought. I don’t mean by buying whitening products, but don’t you think a lot of the famous faces we see wear caps??? (Is that what they’re called?) I’d rather have my own teeth and brag about it when I’m an old lady. Yeah, they’re not perfect…but they’re ALL MINE! 😉

    • Veneers I think is what you mean. Veneers are sort of like fake fingernails for your teeth, where Crowns add structural stability if you’ve broken the tooth or had it internally treated like root canal. Glad I could help! I also have naturally white teeth and when not breastfeeding love my coffee and red wine 🙂

    • Jackie Mccormick says:

      DISAGREE!!! the whiter the better, no such thing as tooo white when it comes to teeth!! dental hygiene and appearance is no joke, white teeth and fresh breath! hell if i had the coins they would be glow in the dark, better then gross charcoal teeth!!! the thing with the eyes makes no sense,thats like saying if your hair is black your eyes shouldnt be darker than your dark hair for brunettes!!!
      white teeth look perfect and anyone who says different is a liar

  18. The cheapest bleaching products–under $10 for a several YEAR supply!–work just as well as the expensive packs that can only be used for one round. That’s another secret. While the Crest strips are less messy, they don’t work one bit better.


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