Does Sodium Fluoride Whiten Teeth?

woman in dentist office receiving teeth whitening procedure

A key component in dental health, sodium fluoride is one of the most common ways that we can get fluoride, an active ingredient that prevents tooth decay and cavities. Fluoride is found in toothpastes, mouthwashes, and in our drinking water. When regularly taken in low doses, and on a daily basis—such as brushing our teeth, rinsing with mouthwash, and staying hydrated—we can avoid some common tooth issues such as decay.

While this is vital for maintaining healthy teeth, sodium fluoride is a fundamental component of nearly all toothpastes—including whitening toothpastes that are used alongside whitening strips, pens, or kits.

What is fluoride, and how does it help our teeth?

Fluoride is one of the most effective ways to prevent tooth decay. When you eat and drink, bacteria can get trapped between your teeth and onto your teeth’s surfaces. From here, poor dental hygiene and a lack of toothbrushing, flossing, and mouthwash can lead to cavities.

Fluoride can replenish the lost minerals on your teeth, by promoting the strengthening of tooth enamel as well as preventing cavities.3 It has been considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an Essential Medicine.4

Fluoride can improve the aspects of our teeth, preventing further damage and decay to the inside of our teeth. This can eliminate the chance of pain and increased tooth sensitivity.

Sodium fluoride is comprised of a sodium ion and a fluoride ion, with the formula NaF. It is colorless and odorless, easy for the body to absorb, and readily soluble in water—making it a handy ingredient for toothpastes. Your dentist might also prescribe sodium fluoride supplements in capsule or pill form to prevent cavities.5

The WHO recommends small amounts of fluoride to be ingested on a routine basis, from 0.7 parts fluoride per million parts water.5

What is sodium fluoride’s role in a whitening toothpaste?

Teeth whitening toothpaste contains mild abrasives and chemical agents that help remove surface stains and discoloration on the teeth. Fortunately, as a vital component of nearly all toothpastes, whitening or not, sodium fluoride is added to provide cavity protection and strengthen tooth enamel at the same time, all while you whiten your teeth.

How does sodium fluoride whiten teeth?

Fluoride is not a key ingredient in teeth whitening products, such as strips, pens, or whitening kits.3 Rather, the active ingredients of tooth whitening is an agent like hydrogen peroxide, STP, or silica.6,7 Peroxide can oxidize organic material, STP helps to inhibit plaque and silica mechanically removes extrinsic stains.7

Fluoride (and sodium fluoride in particular) is added to toothpastes to strengthen the tooth enamel, the layer of hardened outer shell that surrounds and protect the tooth’s softer layers and nerve endings. In a whitening toothpaste, whitening agents work to lighten the shade of your teeth.

Every dental whitening procedure begins with a thorough assessment of the state of your teeth and their existing stains, which will allow your dental professional to determine the performance of a whitening agent.7 If you’re looking to comprehensively begin a tooth whitening procedure, talk to a dental professional about how you’d like your teeth and start with a whitening toothpaste such as Sensodyne Extra Whitening.1 And be sure to consult a dentist near you if beginning a tooth whitening procedure, to ensure that you won’t run into any chances of decay.

Source Citations:

  1. Effect of sodium fluoride pretreatment on the efficacy of an in‐office bleaching agent: An in vitro study. National Library of Medicine. Accessed 6/15/2023.
  2. Sodium Fluoride (Oral Route, Dental Route, Oromucosal Route). Mayo Clinic. Accessed 6/15/2023.
  3. What is Sodium Fluoride: Uses, Warnings & Interactions. SingleCare. Accessed 6/15/2023.
  4. Model List of Essential Medicines. World Health Organization. Accessed 6/15/2023.
  5. Fluoride: Topical and systemic Supplements. American Dental Association. Accessed 10/23/23.
  6. Instant tooth whitening from a silica toothpaste containing blue covarine. National Library of Medicine. Accessed 10/23/23.
  7. A Critical Review of Modern Concepts for Teeth Whitening. National Library of Medicine. Accessed 10/23/23.