According to a test conducted by Consumer Reports, toothpastes that claim to whiten teeth may be misleading. The fine print reveals that most products promise to whiten by removing stains, not by lightening the base color of the teeth.

The test, which included 41 toothpastes, found no correlation between the claims and stain-removing ability. Even the seven toothpastes that contained peroxide, the main bleaching ingredient in whitening strips and professional treatments, lightened or bleached out stains no better than the other toothpastes.

One toothpaste that stood out as a stain remover was Ultrabrite All in One Advanced Whitening, which doesn’t contain peroxide. Unlike its two closest competitors in stain removal, Ultrabrite was not more abrasive than average.

Here are some tips on how to choose an effective toothpaste:

• Pick a product that cleans well. Look for one rated “very good” for stain removal;

• Consider a product that claims plaque or tartar control. The ADA’s seal must provide clinical-trial evidence that they perform those tasks better than standard toothpastes do. Other claims may or may not be valid;

• Consider a gentle toothpaste in special cases. A less-abrasive paste might be preferable for people with tooth or gum erosion or sensitive teeth;

• Go for fluoride. The ADA advises everyone to use a fluoride toothpaste.

[www.consumerreports.org, July 26, 2006]