Smile Whitening is a hot topic and one of the most popular cosmetic treatments sought out today. Reading the labels and deciding on which product is right for you can be very confusing.
Peroxide is the active ingredient in nearly all tooth whitening products. There are two types – carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide. Both work essentially the same way. Peroxide breaks down and allows oxygen into the enamel of your teeth, which bleaches them. Used properly and in safe concentrations, it will not damage your enamel. Higher amounts of peroxide can produce faster, more dramatic whitening, but can also increase the risk of temporary but uncomfortable tooth sensitivity. A lower percentage of peroxide will still achieve excellent whitening results, with little risk of sensitivity, but treatment may take longer.
Carbamide Peroxide is hydrogen peroxide combined with urea (an aqueous solution). Tooth whitening products containing carbamide peroxide typically range from concentrations of 6% to 22%. You will see products at your dentist office as high as 35% but these typically must be professionally applied. The percentage is higher for carbamide peroxide than for a hydrogen peroxide product because carbamide peroxide breaks down into hydrogen peroxide – the higher percentage of the two types does not mean a greater whitening power. Some studies show there is less sensitivity with carbamide peroxide. A 10% carbide is about equal to 3% hydrogen; 22% carbamide is about the same as 8% hydrogen.
Calprox is a patented formulation for whitening that includes baking soda and 16 other ingredients. This ingredient is found in some whitening toothpastes such as Colgate Optic White and SuperSmile brands. Your teeth have a thin, clear film called the Protein Pellicle layer that coats the tooth. Stains, food, bacteria and plaque bond to this pellicle to cause discoloration and tarter buildup on the teeth, even causing periodontal disease and cavities. Calprox dissolves this pellicle layer to breakdown stains and whiten teeth and is nonabrasive to reduce sensitivity and promote gum health.
Hydrated Silica is derived from silicon dioxide and is a safe, mild abrasive used to clean stains off the teeth. It is sometimes combined with calcium carbonate to remove plaque buildup. It can be an effective ingredient in whitening toothpaste but can be a little abrasive.
Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) is a substance that helps prevent new stains from adhering to teeth and is found in whitening toothpastes.
Potassium nitrate is an FDA approved substance that reduces sensitive tooth discomfort by protecting the nerve found in the tooth root under your gum line. The ingredient is found in toothpastes for sensitive teeth and in some whitening gels.
Sodium Bicarbonate is also known as baking soda and helps to clean teeth, freshen breath and neutralize mouth acids which can destroy tooth enamel. It is a very mild abrasive and has been used for decades in toothpaste.
Sodium Monofluorophosphate is what we know as Fluoride and is proven to help prevent cavities but has also been found to reduce tooth sensitivity. Using a mouth rinse with Fluoride or a Fluoride gel before using a whitening system can reduce sensitivity. Often found in whitening toothpastes, you may also see Fluoride included in a whitening gel.
Sodium Tripolyphosphate is a food-grade detergent that helps remove stains from your teeth and is found in whitening toothpastes.
Strontium Chloride is found in toothpastes for sensitive teeth. People with sensitive teeth have part of the tooth exposed where the dentin contains small nerves and discomfort or sensitivity is heightened.
When choosing a whitening product, consider whether your teeth are sensitive and look for products with the ingredients we listed here that are for reducing sensitivity. If you have sensitive gums, avoid abrasive ingredients. If you don’t have tooth sensitivity, consider a product with a higher percentage so as to achieve the fastest results.