And, why don’t Solid make a whitening toothpaste, arguably the most popular kind of toothpaste?
Let’s start at the beginning, and look at why you’d buy a whitening toothpaste. Generally, it’s because you want to change the colour of your teeth. You may think they look brownish, yellowish or greyish.
Teeth tend to vary in colour from person to person as well as tooth to tooth. And despite what you see in the media, naturally bright white teeth aren’t the norm!
Tooth discolouration or staining can occur on both the outside of the tooth (called extrinsic) or come from deeper inside the tooth (called intrinsic).
What causes extrinsic staining?
- Strong coloured foods and drinks such as coffee, tea and red wine. This type of staining is usually temporary if you’re a regular toothbrusher.
- Stained plaque or calculus/tartar. This buildup on teeth happily absorbs pigments from strongly coloured food and drink. Calculus cannot be effectively removed at home, and requires a visit to your dental hygienist who will sort it out.
- Smoking can cause some pretty full on staining. Quitting smoking, or never starting, is the best way to improve the colour of your teeth. As well as your overall health!
- There’s also a less common type of linear black staining that can occur near the gumline in some people. This type of stain is generally not harmful. It can be removed by a hygienist and then prevented with thorough, regular toothbrushing.
- So, as unexciting as it sounds, regular toothbrushing with toothpaste is the best way to remove extrinsic stains. Plus a dental hygienist visit every now and then.
How exactly does brushing with toothpaste remove extrinsic stains?
Toothpastes contain abrasives. These are tiny rough particles designed to gently scrub away plaque and remove surface stains. It’s what makes toothpaste, well, toothpaste. For example, Solid use calcium carbonate as an abrasive.
What makes a whitening toothpaste different from a regular toothpaste?
Well… not much. There are no regulations around using the word “whitening” on a toothpaste tube (or jar).
The majority of toothpastes in NZ that have “whitening” or “natural whitening” in their name are referring to whitening through the removal of surface stains.
Often, there is a wee asterisk after the word whitening that will direct you to the words “through the removal of surface stains”.
99% of “whitening” toothpastes won’t change the actual colour of your tooth enamel
Sometimes whitening toothpastes are formulated to be more abrasive. The use of highly abrasive toothpastes or hard toothbrushes can actually result in teeth appearing more yellow over time as the enamel is slowly scrubbed away, as well as causing sensitivity and other issues.
What to do if your teeth still look yellow/brown/grey?
It’s important to note that just because your teeth aren’t white, doesn’t mean your teeth aren’t healthy.
If it bothers you, you may want to look into true whitening through a method that utilises hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. I will explain these true whitening methods in a later blog.
I have found one or two tube toothpastes on the market that contain a very small percentage of hydrogen peroxide (1-3%).
The use of these toothpastes over time may result in a mild whitening effect.
However, 1-3% is a low concentration, and the contact time with the teeth is limited.
I believe there are better ways of using hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth. For example, here’s one we made ourselves 😉
My simple recommendations to remove extrinsic stains:
- Visit your dental hygienist to remove any stained plaque or calculus.
- Use your regular fluoride toothpaste of choice and a soft toothbrush to brush teeth twice a day for two minutes. This will remove plaque and prevent calculus buildup.
- Floss teeth once a day to remove plaque and prevent calculus buildup. If the buildup isn’t there, it can’t pick up stains!
- Drink strongly coloured liquids through a reusable straw.
That’s it 🙂
More reading: this is a good article! https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/teeth-whiteners