All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives. Whitening toothpastes have special chemical or polishing agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Unlike bleaches, these ADA Accepted whitening toothpastes do not alter the intrinsic color of teeth.
Technically speaking, all toothpastes are whitening toothpastes, since they remove surface plaque and debris. But only a limited number contain key whitening ingredients chemical bleaching agents and abrasives in high concentrations. When used on a regular basis, these dentifrices may offer backup support for tooth whitening. Of course given that brushing time is limited to a minute or two, that support is minimal. But since we all brush every day, whitening toothpastes are considered by some to be potential whitening enhancers.
Most toothpastes clean the teeth with the use of finely ground abrasives such as silica, aluminum oxide, calcium carbonate or baking soda. Whitening toothpastes contain more of these abrasives though the paradox here is that overuse can result in an increase in stains, and can also dull the surface of dental crowns and veneers.