Most of the teeth whitening toothpastes work through the action of mild abrasives. All toothpastes contain a little abrasive material to improve their cleaning action. Whitening toothpastes contain additional polishing agents or abrasives with higher granularity. In both cases, the whitening toothpastes have higher abrasivity than normal toothpaste. The most common abrasive ingredients used in whitening toothpastes are silica, chalk and baking soda. Some of the more modern whitening toothpastes contain special chemical agents such as hydrogen peroxide similar to what is used for professional whitening, but in much smaller concentration. Care should be taken to ensure that the more powerful and abrasive whitening toothpastes are used infrequently.
The higher abrasivity of tooth whitening toothpastes is the main cause of side effects that arise from their use. Normal toothpastes recommended for everyday use have an Enamel Abrasion Value of 40-90, while the whitening toothpastes have a value higher than 100 and in some extreme cases over 250. Their abrasive action can reduce staining and yellowing of teeth but it can also damage the tooth enamel and cause tooth sensitivity. The Consumer Affairs website has several complaints from people using such whitening toothpastes:
I recently purchased Creast Pro-Health toothpaste about a month ago. Shortly after my mouth became dry at night, gums bleeding and receding, teeth very sore, blisters in mouth, and skin peeling off the inside of my cheeks. I finally thought to see if there were any complaints with this toothpaste.
If you would like to use these whitening toothpastes, pay attention to the way you brush your teeth. Brushing incorrectly or too vigorously can lead to irreversible loss of tooth enamel. The damage can be much worse if you use a very abrasive whitening toothpaste. Finally, do not use a whitening toothpaste more often than it is recommended by the manufacturer, under the impression that quicker results could be achieved. The enamel loss caused by over-brushing could lead to severe tooth sensitivity or even tooth decay and tooth loss. Be especially careful if you already have a problem of sensitive teeth.
Before you start using any whitening product you should have a thorough examination by your dentist. Your dentist will need to make sure that your teeth and gums are healthy before you start.