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The BBC's Richard Hannaford
"Researchers tested all the major brands"
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Saturday, 10 June, 2000, 06:14 GMT 07:14 UK
Whitening toothpastes 'don't work'
Whitened teeth
Some toothpaste can whiten teeth
Only a small number of whitening toothpastes are actually effective at removing stains, say researchers.

A study published in the British Dental Journal found only two toothpastes were likely to achieve their claimed benefits.

Many toothpastes on the market claim to have 'whitening' properties - meaning that they may remove stains, rather than change the natural colour of the teeth.

Some use agents that are also used in anti-tartar toothpastes, helping to prevent the build up of tartar and potentially reducing the amount of staining.

The British Dental Association (BDA) accredits toothpastes which demonstrate dental health benefits - such as reduced decay and healthier gums - to an independent panel of experts.

The BDA does not accredit a toothpaste for a whitening claim alone but accreditation can be given to toothpastes that demonstrate effective cleaning alongside dental health benefits.

Macleans Whitening is the only whitening toothpaste to be accredited so far.

This was one of the toothpastes which performed well in the study by Bristol Dental School. The other was Aquafresh Whitening.

Abrasion levels

It has been suggested that whitening toothpastes may actually damage teeth by being too abrasive.

Unwhitened teeth
Teeth can become heavily stained

However, the study found that they had similar abrasion levels to normal toothpastes.

The BDA also says that if whitening toothpastes encourage people to brush their teeth - especially with a toothpaste containing fluoride - then this is a good step towards oral health.

Professor Mike Edgar, a member of the BDA's accreditation panel for toothpaste, said more research was needed, and said manufacturers should be able to back up their claims scientifically.

However, he said: "Teeth are not naturally white, they are a greyish yellow. People should not aim to get a supernaturally white smile.

"It is much more important to clean your teeth for dental health reasons, than for cosmetic reasons."

The BDA is lobbying for tooth whiteners containing hydrogen peroxide to be allowed to be sold in the UK.

They were taken off the market following a ruling by the European Union that classified them as cosmetic products rather than medical devices.

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