Years of coffee, red wine, tea, tobacco and other tannin-rich products, as well as enamel damage and even simple genetics can lead to stained, yellowed teeth – a long way from the white, shining Hollywood smiles we’re aiming for.
Professional teeth whitening can be prohibitively expensive (though it is the most effective option, as dentists can use up to six per cent hydrogen peroxide, the holy grail whitening ingredient) and for many, especially those with sensitive teeth, the thought of using at-home whitening kits such as strips is just plain scary.
A whitening toothpaste won’t offer the same results as these options, but they are the safest way to achieve a brighter, whiter and less stained smile from home.
We tested a considerable number of toothpastes that claim to be whitening and whittled it down to these seven products that had a noticeable effect. Some of them employ natural ingredients such as charcoal to draw out surface-level impurities; others improve the appearance of teeth by strengthening the enamel, and still others use the classic whitening ingredient hydrogen peroxide.
Not all of them contain fluoride, which is the key ingredient in most toothpaste that protects against cavities; some people prefer to avoid it to minimise their chemical exposure. The choice is between you, your teeth and your dentist.
You simply won’t get the same radical results with a toothpaste that you will with professional whitening, but, used consistently, twice a day, all our picks had a visible effect on staining and yellowing over time, a pleasant flavour and texture and, in some cases, good-looking packaging, too.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best whitening toothpastes for 2021 are:
Best overall – Spotlight oral care toothpaste for whitening teeth: £9.50, Beautybay.com
Best with charcoal – Curaprox black is white charcoal whitening toothpaste: £16.51, Amazon.co.uk
Best budget option – Oral B 3D white luxe perfection whitening toothpaste, £4.99, Superdrug.com
Best for protection against cavities – Regenerate advanced toothpaste: £10, Lookfantastic.com
Best for sensitive teeth – Sensodyne sensitive toothpaste repair and protect whitening: £4, Boots.com
Best fluoride free – Moon activated charcoal fluoride-free whitening toothpaste, £10.95, Beautybay.com
Best with fluoride – Nano whitening toothpaste: £9.95, Whitewashnano.co.uk
Spotlight oral care toothpaste for whitening teeth
If you’re after good, old-fashioned results rather than the charcoal-laden, enamel restoring approach of many new products, Spotlight’s toothpaste contains the classic whitening ingredient hydrogen peroxide, as well as fluoride, which is in most traditional toothpaste to help prevent decay. You can be assured that your teeth are protected just as well as they would be with your usual toothpaste, only with added brightness and good short-term staining reduction (those with old, deep staining will require something stronger). We love the tube too, which looks more like skincare than tooth care.
Buy now £7.55, Beauty Bay
Curaprox black is white charcoal whitening toothpaste
Best: With charcoal
This uses charcoal to remove heavy surface staining rather than changing the natural colour of your teeth with peroxide. It has a fresh citrusy flavour, which is pleasant but doesn’t quite give the minty-fresh feeling of our usual toothpaste, and is a paste rather than a powder so is far less messy to use than some. It contains fluoride and can be used in place of your normal toothpaste, but we’d recommend only using it a couple of times a week as charcoal can be abrasive.
Buy now £15.89, Amazon
Oral B 3D white luxe perfection whitening toothpaste
Best: Budget option
We don’t love that Oral B’s marketing for this toothpaste claims it can remove up to 100 per cent of staining in three days as we feel it sets unrealistic expectations. However, used consistently for a month, it gives subtle but noticeable results; our tester found multiple people commented on how bright their smile was. It contains tiny, stain-dissolving particles as well as fluoride, has a zingy, minty flavour and, weirdly, isn’t suitable for people with shellfish allergies.
Buy now £2.48, Superdrug
Regenerate advanced toothpaste
Best: For protection against cavities
This doesn’t contain an active whitening ingredient, but instead helps re-mineralise and harden damaged enamel (it’s not possible to replace enamel that is entirely eroded). This both gives the appearance of a healthier, shinier smile and helps protect against further staining. It offers everything your usual toothpaste does –minty freshness, protection against cavities – and our tester said their teeth felt stronger and looked cleaner and fresher in two weeks.
Buy now £10.00, Lookfantastic
Sensodyne sensitive toothpaste repair and protect whitening
Best: For sensitive teeth
If you’re nervous about whitening products damaging your teeth, Sensodyne, the king of sensitive tooth care, is a safe bet. Our tester has sensitive teeth and found no increase in pain and no difference in protection against pain than with her normal toothpaste. It contains patented “NovaMin” technology, which creates a tooth-like protective layer over vulnerable areas, and gives a brighter smile and some stain reduction with consistent brushing.
Buy now £4.00, Boots
Moon activated charcoal fluoride-free whitening toothpaste
Best: Fluoride free
Moon, an oral care brand that has previously collaborated with Kendall Jenner, has won a place at our bathroom sink for its sleek, silky black packaging alone – far more chic than our usual £2 tube. This has a good minty fresh flavour, which was unexpected given its dark grey colour, and contains charcoal, which is known to be capable of drawing out impurities. It is fluoride-free, which those who prefer to avoid chemicals will prefer, though your dentist will likely advise you to use a fluoride paste. Our tester said their teeth felt squeaky clean after brushing and that she saw some reduction in yellowing near the gums.
Buy now £10.95, Beauty Bay
Nano whitening toothpaste
Best: With fluoride
Nano was founded by a dentist to create actually effective whitening products that are also healthy for your teeth. Its toothpaste contains fluoride, micro polishers to reduce surface stains, “enamel care technology” that helps to remineralise teeth, strengthening the enamel, and the natural sweetener xylitol, which impedes plaque formation. It delivers the truly magical combination of reduced sensitivity and brighter, whiter teeth.
Buy now £9.95, Nano
Whitening toothpastes FAQs
How does whitening toothpaste work?
When it comes to teeth whitening at home, brands use a variety of ingredients. Charcoal is popular, which draws out impurities from the enamel, the outer layer of your teeth, while some use abrasives to dissolve stains. Another common whitening ingredient is hydrogen peroxide, which whitens teeth by bleaching, and silica, which can remove surface stains.
It can take several weeks to see a difference with regular use, so consistency is key for white, brighter teeth. You can also help maintain your teeth’s whiteness by avoiding coffee, red wine, beetroot, and blueberries.
Is whitening toothpaste safe?
If you’re using a surface stain removal toothpaste that contains abrasives to dissolve stains, it can weaken your enamel, in which case it’s always a good idea to also use an enamel-strengthening toothpaste. The healthier your enamel is, the better chance you have at protecting teeth from stains.
Most whitening toothpaste is designed for use every day, unless specified on the instructions otherwise, but if you have particularly sensitive teeth, it is often recommended to alternate with your regular toothpaste.
The verdict: Whitening toothpaste
Our pick, for its effective combination of the classic ingredients hydrogen peroxide and fluoride with gentle, effective whitening, is Spotlight’s oral care toothpaste for whitening teeth, though the only thing that really puts it above Nano’s whitening toothpaste is a very slightly lower price. For a toothpaste you can pick up in your local chemist for a fairly budget price, we’d suggest Oral B’s 3D white luxe perfection whitening toothpaste, which, while it might make some dubious marketing claims, is reliable and gives a brighter smile.
If a toothpaste just won’t cut it, read our review of the best teeth whitening kits
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