There are a lot of toothpastes out there and a lot of ingredient variety, but at least you can count on there being a few main ingredients: an abrasive for scraping teeth clean, a detergent to foam the paste up and let you know it’s working, flavors to cut through the bad taste of the detergent, and probably fluoride to recrystallize enamel and keep your teeth protected from the damage done by plaque-causing bacteria.
But while the government regulates toothpaste as a health product, tooth whitening kits don’t get the same level of oversight. Much like how health supplements start out with basic multivitamins but go on to include plant extracts and beauty products can include a lot of dubious claims and strange ingredients, teeth whiteners can include chemicals with guaranteed results and a lot of all-natural ingredients that are mostly there to sound good.
For any tooth care product, you should first look for the ADA seal of approval. The American Dental Association isn’t a government organization, so products and companies don’t have to get their approval, but having that square seal on the packaging is a way the product can guarantee that it does what it says and does it well enough to pass lab tests and satisfy a panel of experts. It’s completely possible that a product without the seal can do what it promises, but it’s hard to say for certain without it.
What to look for?
Tooth bleaching products don’t often come with the ADA seal, so the second best thing you can do is check the ingredient list for a bleaching chemical. Hydrogen peroxide and several related chemicals (mostly carbamide peroxide) are popular since they’re safe enough to put on your teeth, and while they can cause sensitivity in teeth and gums that sensitivity goes away faster than the whiteness does. Bleaching products can contain other chemicals, compounds, and natural ingredients, but peroxide is the key ingredient and the ADA has said a product with 10 percent carbamide peroxide is the most effective balance.
Then again, you can always go to your local dentist’s office for professional teeth whitening. Dentists can use stronger bleaching products since you’re in an expert’s care, plus a custom-made tray will keep the peroxide off your gums. So before you decide to try something from the teeth whitening section, think about whether it might be worth your time to get a professional’s touch.