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Ingredients found in tooth whitening products

Reading the labels on teeth whiteners have you confused? Here are some of the most common active ingredients found in teeth whitening products, along with descriptions of what they do!


Peroxide is the active ingredient in nearly all tooth whitening products. There are two types - carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide, but both work essentially the same way. The peroxide breaks down, allowing oxygen into the enamel of your teeth, bleaching them. Used properly and in safe concentrations, it will not damage the enamel or any other part of your teeth.

Products contain different strengths of peroxide. Those with higher amounts of peroxide can produce faster, more dramatic whitening of your teeth, however they also increase the risk of creating temporary but uncomfortable tooth sensitivity. Lower amounts of peroxide carry less risk of unpleasant side-effects, but they do not whiten as quickly.

Some products are PH buffered, to reduce the likelihood and severity of side effects.

Carbamide Peroxide

Carbamide peroxide is hydrogen peroxide combined with urea (an aqueous solution). Tooth whitening products containing carbamide peroxide typically range from concentrations of 10% or less to 22%. Professional products may contain as much as 35%. These numbers are higher than hydrogen peroxide products because carbamide peroxide breaks down into hydrogen peroxide.

Found in: Professional tooth whitening formulas, teeth bleaching gels, light-activated tooth whitening gels, some whitening toothpastes.

Hydrogen Peroxide

This is the active tooth whitening ingredient in it's basic form. See the note below about comparing the strength of these products to those containing carbamide peroxide.

Found in: Whitening strips, paint on whiteners, whitening mouth rinses

Note: Trying to compare a product with Carbamide peroxide to one containing Hydrogen Peroxide? A solution of 10% carbamide peroxide is about equal to 3% hydrogen peroxide, 22% carbamide peroxide is about the same as 7.5% hydrogen peroxide. Stronger products produce faster whitening results, but increase your chances of experiencing temporary tooth sensitivity.


Calprox is a new, patented formula which includes baking soda and 16 other ingredients.

Protein pellicle is a thin, clear layer of protein which forms on your teeth. Stains, food, bacteria and plaque bond to this pellicle to cause discoloration and plaque buildup on your teeth. Plaque hardens into tarter, causing peridontal disease and cavities. Calprox dissolves this pellicle layer to prevent stains and whiten teeth. It is non-abrasive.

Found in: Whitening toothpastes

Hydrated Silica

Derived from silicon dioxide, this is a safe, mild abrasive used to clean stains from your teeth. It is sometimes combined with calcium carbonate to increase effectiveness in removing plaque. It is listed as "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA.

Found in: Whitening toothpastes

Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP)

Substance that helps keep new stains from adhering to teeth

Found in: Whitening toothpastes

Potassium nitrate

Potassium nitrate is an FDA approved substance which reduces sensitive tooth discomfort by protecting the nerves found in the tooth root under your gum line.

Found in: toothpastes for sensitive teeth, whitening toothpastes, some tooth whitening gels.

Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda)

Helps clean teeth, freshen breath and neutralize mouth acids which can destroy tooth enamel. It is also a very mild abrasive, which helps clean teeth. Used for decades for dental care, the FDA recognizes it as safe.

Found in: Whitening toothpastes

Sodium Monofluorophosphate (Flouride)

The full name for what we commonly call "Flouride". Proven to help prevent cavities, it also reduces tooth sensitivity. Some teeth whitening systems have you use a mouth rinse containing Flouride immediately following treatment to prevent or reduce the temporary tooth sensitivity that some people experience as a side-effect to the tooth whitening process.

Found in: toothpastes for sensitive teeth, whitening toothpastes, whitening mouth rinses, some tooth whitening gels.

Sodium tripolyphosphate

Food-grade "detergent" which helps remove stains from your teeth.

Found in: Whitening toothpastes

Strontium Chloride

People with sensitive teeth have part of the dentin small nerves in one or more teeth partially exposed. Strontium chloride bonds with your saliva to help protect the tooth root.

Found in: toothpastes for sensitive teeth

More Information:

Sensitive Teeth and Tooth Whitening
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