Sunday, 17 February 2008

More than just a teeth cleaner and cavity fighter, toothpaste today comes with a variety of features, including anti-plaque, anti-tartar, and sensitive formulas. Is the difference all in taste and advertising? We find out.


The Basics

  • There are so many varieties of paste on the market. Start by choosing a product with the Dental Association seal of approval, which means it’s both effective and safe to use.

  • All certified toothpaste is essentially the same. All of them contain a detergent that cleans the surface of the teeth. All of them should have anti-bacterial agents to fight gum disease. Some have para phosphates (anti-tartar) and some do not.

  • Dentists tend to disregard the whitening claims. The chemical Triclene does clean stains off teeth, but doesn’t whiten or change the colour of the teeth. It simply gives a more thorough clean.

  • Here’s a checklist of ingredients to help narrow down your toothpaste options:

    • Fluoride: all toothpaste you buy should contain fluoride. It may be referred to on the label as stannous fluoride, sodium fluoride or monofluoride phosphate (MFP)

    • Dental Association Seal of Acceptance ensures that the product has been proven safe and effective.

    • Tartar Control limits build-up, but doesn’t remove it. Only a professional dentist can actually remove tartar. The active ingredient is pyrophosphate.

    • Baking Soda has not been proven medically to support its progressive claims. Despite this, many people enjoy the feel of it, and as a mild abrasive, it can not do any harm.

    • Peroxide for teeth whitening can irritate or damage gum tissue, so avoid products with this ingredient.

    • Sensitive teeth pastes work for mild cases of hypersensitivity, but can take almost six weeks to work. Active ingredients to look for are: strontium chloride and potassium nitrate.

    • All approved toothpastes contain mild abrasives. Heavy abrasives in ‘smokers toothpastes’ are not recommended as they can cause gum recession and damage tooth enamel.

Other Considerations

  • No matter what toothpaste you choose, how you brush your teeth makes the difference:

    • Brush for at least two minutes with small circular strokes.

    • Start at the back of your mouth, on the inside, and work your way forward.

    • Don’t brush too fast. Take your time and give some attention to each individual tooth.

Be Aware

  • Store your toothpaste away from children and pets. There are no health risks associated with fluoride for adults, but fluoride is potentially toxic in large doses.

  • Children under three should avoid fluoride toothpaste altogether. Our experts say that teeth can be cleaned with water or even baking soda or salt.


We invited some fellow Shopping Bags to help us test 5 different toothpastes.

Blind Brush Test

We each tested a tube for 5 days:

  • The Aquafresh tasted good, as did the Colgate.

  • The Crest didn’t seem to give that clean feeling compared to others.

  • The Tom’s of Main tasted chalky but it cleaned well.

  • Sensodyne didn’t win on taste, but it made the mouth feel cleaner.

Value Test

We also wanted to know which toothpaste gives you the most for your money, so we squeezed each tube on the length of our driveway and measured them:

  • Crest was the longest, while Tom’s of Maine was significantly shorter.

  • From this we calculated the cost per brush:
    • Colgate 9.5 cents
    • Sensodyne 22 cents
    • Crest 4 cents
    • Aquafresh 9 cents
    • Tom’s of Maine 40 cents


Choosing a toothpaste is all a matter of preference. As long as the product has a seal of approval, the ingredients are fairly similar. Test ones you like for taste, feel and even dispensing mechanism.






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