Battling the myths

28 June 2013
Volume 29 · Issue 6

Aleksandra Svec answers some of the criticisms levelled at specialist whitening products.

Although teeth whitening has become one of the most sought after cosmetic dental treatments requested by patients, not everyone will want to splash their cash on expensive treatments. By the same token, many patients are also dubious about whitening toothpastes. This article aims to answer some of the myths your patients might believe about specialist whitening toothpastes.



In late 2012, whitening toothpastes came under scrutiny when Arm & Hammer’s Advanced Whitening toothpaste advertisements were banned after it emerged that 43 per cent of users, during a four-week trial, either saw no improvement or were left with darker teeth. By association, many patients assume that all whitening toothpastes do not live up to their claims.

It is important that the effective toothpastes available, which are clinically proven to work, are brought to your patients’ attention. These products should contain ingredients such as the stain-dissolving agent, pentasodium triphosphate and anti-tartar ingredient, tetrasodium pyrophosphate.

Pentasodium triphosphate can remove deep surface stains as part of a daily oral health care regime to brighten, lighten and whiten teeth. It also prevents food particles settling on the teeth, effectively keeping teeth whiter for longer. For extra stain removal, tetrasodium pyrophosphate coats the surface of teeth to prevent bacteria forming, leaving teeth feeling and appearing brighter all day.



There is a misconception that to remove dental stains caused by smoking and some foods and drinks, patients need to resort to products that contain harsh abrasives. This is not the case. Recommend patients use whitening toothpastes that contain hydrated silica. This low abrasive polishing ingredient, which is frequently combined with the softer calcium carbonate to provide a smooth gel-like quality, works hard to remove plaque and stains and whiten the teeth. It has no distinctive taste or odour and may also be labeled as amorphous silicon dioxide, silicic acid, or silica gel. This mild abrasive is harmless and is even listed by the US Food and Drug Administration as ‘generally recognised as safe’.


Not for sensitive teeth

Teeth sensitivity is a common dental problem and there are many brands of toothpastes that claim to treat it. You can recommend patients use a toothpaste that contains potassium citrate. This desensitising agent relieves tooth sensitivity by effectively blocking the transmission of pain sensation between the nerve cells that enable cold and hot sensations to reach the tooth’s nerves. There are toothpastes available that combine hydrated silica for high performance whitening and potassium citrate for rapid sensitivity action.


Not all-round protection

Thankfully, many patients recognise that a healthy smile should come hand-in-hand with a brighter smile. It’s a stark reality, but most people suffer from some form of gum disease, which is the major cause of tooth loss in adults. Many patients show no symptoms and are unaware they have it. Using an oral health product that contains a gum protection system can help prevent the causes and effects of gum disease whilst restore teeth to a natural, white colour, without using harsh abrasives or bleach.

Bleeding gums can be a cause of vitamin and nutritional deficiencies. Toothpastes which contain vitamin E (tocopheryl aceteate), pro vitamin B5 (panthenol) and B vitamin folic acid, anti-inflammatory revitalising agents, will help invigorate and strengthen the gums to keep the oral tissue healthy, whilst toothpastes that contain the ingredient permethol and Q10 and folic acid will help reduce and stop bleeding, promoting healthy gums.

So it seems clear many of the myths surrounding whitening toothpastes are unfounded, and as dental professionals you can help patients by recommending products which support the aim of providing the aesthetic effects of whitening without compromising their all-round oral health, even for those with sensitive teeth.