Stains can be classified as surface stains or below the enamel surface. Toothpaste primarily work against surface stains. Bleaching products that contain hydrogen peroxide (i.e., whitening strips) or carbamide peroxide (i.e., dental office bleaching trays) address both below the enamel surface stains and surface stain.
Most toothpastes contain mild abrasives that help clean stain particles from the tooth surface, controlling surface stains with home care. While toothpaste abrasives are desirable to keep stains off teeth, they are designed to not wear down the tooth enamel over time with repeated brushing. The abrasives in toothpaste are silica, aluminum oxide, calcium carbonate, and dicalcium phosphate dihydrate.
Some of the chemical agents in toothpaste that remove the surface stain also help to control calculas – sodium pyrophosphate, sodium tripolyphosphate, and sodium hexametaphosphate.