Abrasion, polishing, and stain removal characteristics of various commercial dentifrices in vitro

J Clin Dent. 2011;22(1):11-8.


Objective: To evaluate, using conventional in vitro procedures, the abrasivity, enamel polishing properties, and stain removal effectiveness of various commercial dentifrices that have a variety of compositions and are marketed for cleaning, whitening, and/or polishing capabilities, and to examine their relationships between stain removal and abrasivity.

Methods: The Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA) method was used to measure abrasivity, and the Pellicle Cleaning Ratio (PCR) procedure was used to evaluate stain removal performance. A Cleaning Efficiency Index (CEI) was calculated using the RDA and PCR values. Enamel polish was determined on bovine enamel specimens using a reflectometer. All treatments were performed on a V-8 cross-brushing machine using aqueous dentifrice slurries and standard nylon-bristle toothbrushes. A total of 26 dentifrices, purchased at retail, were tested against the American Dental Association (ADA) calcium pyrophosphate reference standard.

Results: All dentifrices removed extrinsic stain and produced some dentin abrasion, but scores ranged widely between products (from 36 to 269 for RDA and from 25 to 138 for PCR). The majority of dentifrices contained hydrated silicas, and those with high PCR scores often, but not always, had higher RDA values. Products containing other abrasives (e.g., dicalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, and calcium carbonate) generally had lower RDA values and usually lower PCR scores. There were exceptions (e.g., refined kaolin clay) that had high PCR scores and low RDA values, resulting in higher CEI values. Similarly, brushing with all dentifrices significantly increased reflectance readings of acid-dulled teeth, but polish scores also were highly variable among products (ranging from 38 to 97). The polish scores of dentifrices containing hydrated silica varied extensively (ranging from 38 to 80), and the scores of products containing other abrasives fell within this same range, except for dentifrices containing either Fuller's earth (86) or kaolin (97).

Conclusion: With only a few exceptions, dentifrices marketed as "whitening" products were generally more abrasive to dentin, especially for those containing silicas. Similarly, aside from two non-silica products, those dentifrices advertised for polishing ability generally were no more effective than other products. The relationship between stain-removal ability and abrasivity of dentifrices was not necessarily direct.

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Calcium Carbonate / therapeutic use
  • Calcium Phosphates / therapeutic use
  • Cattle
  • Complex Mixtures / therapeutic use
  • Dental Enamel / pathology
  • Dentifrices / therapeutic use*
  • Dentin / pathology
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / therapeutic use
  • Kaolin / therapeutic use
  • Magnesium Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Materials Testing
  • Phosphates / therapeutic use
  • Polyphosphates / therapeutic use
  • Silicates / therapeutic use
  • Silicic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Sodium Bicarbonate / therapeutic use
  • Tin Fluorides / therapeutic use
  • Tooth Abrasion / etiology*
  • Tooth Bleaching Agents / therapeutic use
  • Tooth Discoloration / therapy*
  • Toothbrushing / instrumentation
  • Toothbrushing / methods*
  • Toothpastes / therapeutic use


  • Aluminum Compounds
  • Calcium Phosphates
  • Complex Mixtures
  • Crest Pro-Health Dentifrice
  • Dentifrices
  • Magnesium Compounds
  • Phosphates
  • Polyphosphates
  • Silicates
  • Supersmile
  • Tin Fluorides
  • Tooth Bleaching Agents
  • Toothpastes
  • hydrated silica gel-based toothpaste
  • sodium bicarbonate-based toothpaste
  • Silicic Acid
  • Kaolin
  • Fuller's Earth
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Calcium Carbonate
  • calcium phosphate, dibasic, anhydrous
  • triphosphoric acid