Are whitening toothpastes a scam?

What they promise vs. what they deliver

Intan Nobury


Nov 27, 23

6 min read

Photo by Nik on Unsplash

In a world where a bright smile is often considered the ultimate accessory, especially in this day and age and the prevalence of social media, millennials are increasingly turning to various teeth-whitening solutions. Among the sea of options, whitening toothpaste stands out as a popular choice for those seeking a radiant grin without breaking the bank. But the question looms: Are these products genuine game-changers or just another marketing ploy? Let's dive into the world of whitening toothpastes and explore whether they live up to the hype or if they’re just a waste of money.

What they promise

Whitening toothpaste typically boasts the ability to lift surface stains, brighten enamel, and contribute to a noticeably whiter smile. The active ingredients in these toothpastes often include abrasives, peroxides, or other chemicals designed to combat stains.

Store-bought whitening toothpastes

The shelves of local pharmacies and supermarkets are lined with an array of whitening toothpaste options. Brands promise everything from dazzling results in a week to a brighter smile with each brush. But do these store-bought options deliver on their claims, or are they merely a mirage of marketing?

Online whitening products

In the age of e-commerce, numerous online platforms offer whitening toothpaste alternatives, often accompanied by enticing before-and-after photos. Are these products any different from what's on the store shelves? And can the convenience of online shopping replace the reliability of a trusted brand?

Whitening toothpaste vs. professional dental whitening

It's crucial to approach the topic with a discerning eye. While many users report success with whitening toothpaste, the results can vary. The truth is that these toothpastes may be effective in removing surface stains but might fall short when it comes to deeper discoloration.

For those seeking a more drastic transformation with often guaranteed results, professional dental whitening offers a tailored and potent solution. Dentists use higher concentrations of whitening agents in controlled environments, providing more significant and longer-lasting results. The percentage of bleach dentists are allowed to use is also significantly higher than store-bought dental bleach as it will be applied by an oral health professional. Whitening completed by a dentist, whether it is in-chair or with a take home kit, is generally a much high financial investment than a store or online bought whitening kit due to the fact that the results are almost guaranteed. 

Budget and convenience are often driving forces in our decisions. While store-bought and online whitening toothpaste may offer a cost-effective and accessible option, it's essential to weigh the potential results against the investment.

Whitening toothpaste

Here are some considerations to think through when choosing whitening toothpaste as your whitening method:

Accessibility: Readily available at local pharmacies, supermarkets, and online platforms, making them easy to acquire without a dental appointment.Limited Effectiveness: Results may vary, and store-bought products are not as potent as professional dental whitening, offering only a mild improvement in tooth color.
Cost-Effective: Generally more affordable compared to professional dental whitening procedures, making them an attractive option for those on a budget.Surface Stain Focus: As the treatments are primarily effective for surface stains; it may not address deeper discoloration issues as effectively as professional treatments.
User-Friendly: Designed for at-home use, these products usually come with simple instructions, allowing users to incorporate them into their daily oral care routine with ease and at their convenience. Time-Consuming: Achieving noticeable results may take weeks or even months of consistent use, and the level of whiteness may not match the rapid results promised by some products.
Variety of Options: A wide range of whitening toothpaste brands and other products (strips, gels, pens) provide consumers with multiple choices catering to different preferences, needs and budgets. Risk of Overuse: Some individuals may be tempted to use these products excessively in pursuit of quicker results, leading to potential damage to tooth enamel and increased sensitivity.
Mild Formulas: Store-bought products often contain lower concentrations of whitening agents, reducing the likelihood of tooth sensitivity and irritation.Quality Discrepancies: The effectiveness of store-bought products can vary, and not all brands deliver on their promises. Quality control may be inconsistent.
May Mask Underlying Issues: While these products focus on whitening, they may not address or reveal underlying dental issues that could contribute to discoloration, potentially delaying necessary dental care.

Professional dental whitening

This treatment method comes with trade-offs as well. These are some common considerations:

Highly Effective: Professional whitening procedures conducted in dental clinics use higher concentrations of whitening agents, providing more significant and noticeable results compared to store-bought products.Higher Cost: Professional dental whitening is typically more expensive than store-bought products, which may be a deterrent for individuals on a tight budget.
Customized Treatment: Dentists can tailor the whitening treatment to the individual patient's needs, ensuring a personalized approach and addressing specific concerns such as deep stains.Sensitivity: Some patients may experience increased tooth sensitivity during and after professional whitening treatments. This is usually temporary.
Quick Results: Professional whitening often yields quicker results, with treatments such as in chair whitening having the potential to whiten your teeth by 8 shades in one sitting.Time Commitment: While results are often quicker than with store-bought products, professional whitening may still require multiple sessions or follow-up appointments, depending on the method used.
Supervised Treatment: The procedure is carried out under the supervision of dental professionals, ensuring safety and minimizing the risk of misuse, overuse or burning your mouth and gums.Not Permanent: Whitening treatments, whether professional or over-the-counter, are not permanent. Maintenance and potential touch-ups may be needed to sustain the desired level of whiteness.
Address Underlying Issues: Dentists can identify and address underlying dental issues that may contribute to tooth discoloration during the whitening process, promoting overall oral health. They can also assess your suitability for treatment and address other oral health concerns if they are present.Discomfort During Treatment: Some patients may experience discomfort or minor irritation during the procedure, but dentists can often address this by adjusting the treatment or recommending post-whitening care.
Suitability: Pregnant or breastfeeding women, individuals with certain dental conditions, or those with allergies to whitening agents are not suitable candidates for professional whitening.

The Verdict

In the end, whether whitening toothpaste is a "scam" depends on individual expectations. For those looking to brighten a slightly dulled smile, these toothpaste options might suffice. However, for a more dramatic transformation, professional dental whitening remains the gold standard, especially if you have a special event such as a wedding or birthday coming up. 

Navigating the world of teeth-whitening means facing a myriad of choices. Whitening toothpaste, whether store-bought or online, can contribute to a brighter smile, but the key is managing expectations. Professional dental whitening offers a more potent solution but comes with a higher price tag. In the end, the choice between these options boils down to personal preferences, budget constraints, and the level of brightness desired.

Remember, a beautiful smile is an investment – choose wisely.

Written By

Intan Nobury

An appreciator of art, novels and high intensity sports. With a passion for work and a dangerous addiction to tea.