Dentists share their favorite pastes for pearly whites.

By Brittany Loggins
April 22, 2020
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement

If you’ve been noticing that your teeth are starting to yellow—thanks to culprits like coffee, tea, red wine, and berries—it may be time to call in a good whitening toothpaste. Sure, you could pick up a whitening pen, an at-home bleaching kit or schedule an appointment with your dentist for professional whitening, but an everyday paste is an easy, affordable way to brighten your smile without extra steps.

As convenient as it is to incorporate a whitening toothpaste into your oral care routine, you do need to be cautious since some formulas can be harsh on enamel and gums. But, the main questions is: Do they actually work? We did the homework for you and tapped dentists for the best whitening toothpastes that are actually gentle and safe enough to use, while still helping you to achieve your desired results.

While whitening toothpastes can help remove surface stains, they can't completely rid you of stains that have penetrated deep inside the tooth. Basically, these types of pastes contain some type of abrasive ingredient—like silica, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide—that scrubs away at surface stains and makes your teeth appear whiter, says Sheila Samaddar, DDS, a member of the American Dental Association and president of the DC Academy of General Dentistry.

But the abrasive ingredients are also the exact reason why you shouldn’t use whitening toothpastes for prolonged periods. “Abrasives tend to be aggressive with the enamel over time,” points out Samaddar. While she specifies that your dentist, who is familiar with the specific condition of your teeth, is more equipped to give recommendations, she does note that using a whitening toothpaste for only a month at a time is a good rule of thumb. However, if at any point you start to develop tooth sensitivity or gum tenderness, you should discontinue use immediately. 

When using a whitening toothpaste, always be sure to apply it with a soft or extra-soft bristled toothbrush to help counter the harsh abrasives in the paste that scrub off stains, says Sammadar. She also advises using a paste that has been reviewed and recommended by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) or the American Dental Association (ADA). “There are a lot of products out there that claim amazing results but haven’t been vetted," she adds.

And, of course, just because you're using a whitening toothpaste doesn't mean you can slack off on the rest of your oral hygiene routine. Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes, floss daily, limit stain-producing beverages and foods, and see your dentist for annual cleanings and checkups.

Ready for flash-worthy pearly whites? Keep scrolling for expert-approved and customer-loved whitening toothpastes.

Arm & Hammer Advance White Extreme Whitening Baking Soda & Peroxide Toothpaste

TARGET

Brian Harris, DMD, a dentist at Harris Dental in Phoenix, Arizona is a fan of this classic drugstore find. Even though it contains baking soda—which is an abrasive agent—in the ingredient list, this toothpaste offers a lower RDA value (translation: a scale that ranks the abrasiveness of toothpastes), protecting your smile against damage to your enamel, explains Harris.

Colgate Total Advanced Fresh + Whitening Gel Toothpaste

CVS

Even though this gel toothpaste is made with silica (an ingredient known to be abrasive), customers report that it doesn't increase their sensitivity—most likely thanks to fluoride, which offers sensitivity relief while strengthening enamel and neutralizing odors. One reviewer said: "I smoked for three years and recently quit four months ago. No more Newports! Now I have whiter teeth and fresher breath."

Tom’s of Maine Luminous White Toothpaste

Free of artificial flavors and preservatives, this all-natural toothpaste is a gentler option for whitening teeth. It uses a clinically-proven natural whitening technology to remove surface stains, and is also safe on enamel and for everyday use, says Harris.

Hello Naturally Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste

TARGET

This toothpaste uses a calcium mineral blend to naturally whiten teeth. It's also formulated with peppermint, tea tree, and coconut oil to help moisturize and keep bad breath at bay. One Target shopper raved, “I currently have braces, and I feel this toothpaste has actually gotten my teeth even whiter than the drugstore whitening toothpaste I've used for years." 

Smile Direct Club Premium Fluoride Whitening Toothpaste

SMILE DIRECT CLUB

Colorado Springs-based dentist Gary Moore, DDS, who's also in Smile Direct Club’s network of experts, recommends this whitening toothpaste. “The cavity-fighting formula fights tartar buildup, and contains no artificial flavors or preservatives,” he says. Not only does it defend against pesky cavities, but it also freshens breath and brightens your smile. 

Colgate Optic White Advanced Teeth Whitening Toothpaste

TARGET

With over 600 reviews and a nearly-perfect five-star rating, this toothpaste claims it can take you four shades whiter just by brushing with it twice a day for up to six weeks. It features hydrogen peroxide and silica (both being somewhat abrasive), so stop use if you begin to feel any discomfort. One Target customer wrote: "I brush twice a day and noticed right away the change in [the] color of [my] teeth."

Crest 3D White Whitening Toothpaste

TARGET

Another pick from Harris, this paste promised to remove up to 80% of surface stains, while protecting you against future stains. The downside is that it’s pretty abrasive—more than twice that of other whitening toothpastes. “The RDA value is significantly higher than the other options,” says Harris. “Because of this, there is more risk for damaging the enamel after prolonged use.” So, only use it for a week at a time when you feel teeth are looking a bit dull and yellow.