Team fluoride or not, there's a dentist-recommended toothpaste out there for you that'll help remove surface stains, strengthen your enamel, and restore some of that pearly white luster you're after.
Though they won't make your teeth instantly jump several shades brighter like an in-office treatment would, whitening toothpastes are a good at-home measure that can assist in subtly removing stains, diminishing the appearance of yellowness, and overall improving oral health. While peroxide is still the gold-standard ingredient for a whiter smile, those concerned about its harshness have a number of alternative ingredients — like fluoride, hydrated silica, and charcoal — they can explore.
Let's dial it back for a moment and go over some basics. Kami Hoss, a board-certified orthodontist based in San Diego, stresses the importance of taking into account the causes of stains and tooth discoloration — i.e. food and beverages (hello, coffee and red wine), smoking, aging, medications, etc., — in order to determine the correct remedy. Everyone should carefully evaluate a toothpaste's ingredients and discuss it with their dentists to make sure they're making the right choices, he adds. Otherwise, there could be negative, long-term effects that go against the goal you're working toward — for example, you could experience damaged enamel and discoloration with the wrong ingredients.
Now, let's look on the bright side. "There are a number of good products on the market for whitening that, when used correctly, will not damage teeth," says Mark Wolff, a professor at New York University College of Dentistry. However, Wolff urges people to have realistic expectations. "The 'tissue test' seen on commercials — holding a white tissue to the front of your tooth and expecting the same color — is just not realistic," he says. "Expecting teeth to be brilliant white even after whitening is not always possible."
Another piece of advice? Avoid charcoal toothpaste. The anecdotal claims you see floating around the Internet aren't worth it because "some evidence shows that prolonged use of activated charcoal in toothpaste can potentially wear the enamel and even darken the teeth," Hoss says. The next layer, dentin, is softer and naturally more yellow in appearance, so you don't want to reach that level of exposure.
With all of that information in mind, start small with 13 of the best whitening toothpastes, as recommended by the experts. Pair your toothpaste of choice with a trusted electric toothbrush and brush away — at least two minutes per session, twice a day, no exceptions.
(Oh, and don't forget to floss.)
Tom's of Maine Fluoride-Free Antiplaque & Whitening ToothpasteHoss recommends Tom's of Maine Fluoride-Free Antiplaque & Whitening Toothpaste, especially for people who prefer non-fluoride products. It removes surface stains using natural ingredients, including "zinc citrate to control tartar, xylitol to help prevent plaque, and silica for whitening," he explains. Take your pick between peppermint (shown above), fennel, and spearmint varieties.
Nu Skin AP24 Whitening Fluoride ToothpasteRhonda Kalasho, a board-certified dentist in Los Angeles, gives her stamp of approval on Nu Skin's AP24 Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste. Because it contains fluoride (0.76 percent, to be exact), it has the ability to strengthen enamel while also minimizing mild, superficial staining (i.e. food, drinks, and tobacco), she says. The tube's signature mint flavoring also has an unexpected hint of vanilla, so you might actually look forward to brushing.
Sensodyne Extra Whitening ToothpasteKalasho's second recommendation is none other than Sensodyne's Extra Whitening Toothpaste. It's also spiked with enamel-strengthening fluoride, which helps prevents pesky cavities from forming. And because it's formulated with sorbitol (a moisturizing, naturally-occurring sugar-alcohol) and glycerin, she says it doesn't overdry the mouth or leave it feeling chalky.
Hello Naturally Whitening Fluoride ToothpasteHaving earned an American Dental Association (or ADA) Seal of Acceptance, Hello's Naturally Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste is part of a lineup of over-the-counter dental products that have been deemed safe and effective in categories like microbiology, toxicology, and more. The star of the whitening formula, 0.76-percent fluoride, is flanked by breath-freshening tea tree oil and farm-grown peppermint, as well as soothing coconut oil to quell any irritation.
Native Whitening Toothpaste with FluoridePowered by wild mint and peppermint oil, Native's restorative Whitening Toothpaste teams up 0.243 percent sodium fluoride and hydrated silica (an abrasive used to polish teeth and clear buildup) for effective stain removal, while glycerin keeps your mouth retain its natural moisture and xylitol banishes cavity-causing bacteria. For sensitive teeth, Native also offers a fluoride-free version that relies on silica to whiten.
Ultra Brite ToothpasteMarc Lowenberg, a cosmetic dentist with Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor in New York City, says his patients agree Ultra Brite Toothpaste is the most effective at removing surface stains. Hard to argue with that. The usual suspects of 0.24 percent sodium fluoride, hydrated silica, and glycerin keep teeth free of surface stains and looking as close to pearly white (as you can get without an in-office treatment) with regular use.
Bite Fresh Mint Toothpaste BitsFor environmentally-conscious people who also prefer natural ingredients, Hoss recommends Bite's chewable Fresh Mint Toothpaste Bits. Packaged in a reusable glass jar, they eliminate the need for wasteful toothpaste tubes. Simply chew and brush with a wet toothbrush to make the bits foam into a paste.The best part is that they're formulated with one of Hoss' favorite fluoride-alternative ingredients: nano-hydroxyapatite. It's effective for tooth remineralization (aka the repairing of the outer layer of your teeth called the enamel) while also helping whiten and reduce tooth sensitivity, he explains. This minty, breath-freshening option also contains xylitol and erythritol to prevent cavity-causing bacteria from hanging around your mouth.
Colgate Total Whitening Toothpaste GelFew kinds of toothpaste are more recognizable than Colgate Total. Although there's an extensive lineup, the hydrated-silica-infused Colgate's Total Whitening Toothpaste Gel is one of the most affordable options you can get for removing surface stains. It's made with 0.454 percent anti-microbial stannous fluoride, which studies say help fight against gingivitis, plaque, and tooth sensitivity — giving your teeth, gums, tongue, and cheeks the total cleansing package.
Burst Fluoride Wild Mint Whitening Anticavity ToothpasteHoused in a 100 percent recyclable, BPA-free plastic tube, Burst's Fluoride Wild Mint Whitening Anticavity Toothpaste relies on hydrated silica to polish and naturally whiten teeth and remove surface stains. Moisturizing glycerin ensures your mouth doesn't feel dry and chalky, while 0.243 percent sodium fluoride (as you well know by now) bolsters enamel and prevents tooth decay. To top it all off, peppermint, wild mint, and spearmint oils add a dose of cooling refreshment.
Crest 3D White Whitening Therapy Enamel Care ToothpasteCrest's silica-based 3D White Whitening Therapy Enamel Care Toothpaste does an excellent job at scrubbing away surface stains, says Brian Kantor, another cosmetic dentist with Lowenberg, Lituchy & Kantor in New York City. "It also remineralizes to rebuild weakened enamel, contains fluoride to combat cavities, and has a great [mint] taste to freshen breath.
Marvis Whitening Mint ToothpasteMarvis is known for its unusually gorgeous toothpaste tubes, so its Whitening Mint Toothpaste is the perfect pick for those who love having a chic bathroom but don't like peroxide. (The brand uses silica to whiten instead.
Supersmile Professional Teeth Whitening ToothpasteA propriety combination of calcium peroxide and minerals (like sodium bicarbonate) found in Supersmile's Professional Teeth Whitening Toothpaste removes your teeth's sticky bio-film, which stains, plaque, and bacteria latch onto. Calcium carbonate reduces dental sensitivity, according to Kalasho. Plus, it doesn't hurt the toothpaste comes in a variety of wonderfully-smelling, bad breath-squashing flavors including rosewater mint and Tahiti vanilla mint.
Rembrandt Deeply White + Peroxide Toothpaste
If you're pro-peroxide, you'll love Rembrandt's Deeply White + Peroxide Toothpaste, which features a rapid-release version of the ingredient, plus sodium fluoride to keep enamel strong.