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Are the different varieties of toothpaste really all that varied?
February 10, 2009 7:37 PM   Subscribe

The major toothpaste brands offer either cavity protection OR tartar control...do I really have to pick one feature and sacrifice the other?

I ran out of toothpaste yesterday and headed to the drugstore, where I found myself with way too many options for toothpaste. Both of the major C brands (Colgate and Crest) have about 10 different types each, most of which seem to be some variation on a whitening formula. Not being overly concerned with this, my eyes moved to the bottom shelf where prices were a little lower and the claims on the box were a little more basic. Both Crest and Colgate offer a "cavity protection" toothpaste as well as a "tartar control" formula. Is there really any difference between these (besides flavor)? Am I sacrificing my toothpaste's ability to control tartar if I pick the cavity protection one, or vice versa? Do I honestly have to pick only one method for protecting my teeth without splurging for the cavity protection/tartar control/whitening/fluoride rinse/mouthwash/denture cream/laser cleaning toothpaste on the top shelf?
posted by wondercow to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
My understanding has always been that "cavity protection" is the baseline of toothpaste function, and that everything else is an additional "feature." Every toothpaste is "cavity protection," and they only print that on the box when there are no other "extras" to advertise.

But I am not a dentist, nor am I any sort of practitioner of tooth-related, you know, stuff (other than taking care of my own teeth).
posted by The World Famous at 7:43 PM on February 10, 2009


There is not a tremendous difference. The reason there are so many varieties is a function of companies maximizing the width of their product line. It's a marketing tool.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:03 PM on February 10, 2009


If the tartar control version has fluoride, it has cavity protection, too.
posted by maudlin at 8:09 PM on February 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


All toothpastes with the ADA Seal contain fluoride and decrease the incidence of cavities. Here is a list of all ADA Seal toothpastes, including those that are approved for tartar control (which are apparently only made by Crest and Colgate).
posted by grouse at 8:17 PM on February 10, 2009


My understanding has always been that "cavity protection" is the baseline of toothpaste function, and that everything else is an additional "feature." Every toothpaste is "cavity protection," and they only print that on the box when there are no other "extras" to advertise.

Untrue--toothpaste without fluoride doesn't offer cavity protection (ex: Tom's of Maine fluoride-free toothpaste only promises a "clean, healthy-feeling mouth").
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:23 PM on February 10, 2009


"Cavity protection" is what they put in the starburst on the package when there's no additional special features to promote. All styles of toothpaste from all the major brands have equal cavity protection.
posted by winston at 9:00 PM on February 10, 2009


Tom's of Maine has a type called "Whole Care" (homophone unintended, one hopes) that provide cavity protection, tartar control and whitening. If it makes you feel any better, T. of M. is owned by Colgate, which has a pretty large variety of toothpastes, too. Many in the tartar control category also tout cavity fighting properties.
posted by HE Amb. T. S. L. DuVal at 9:26 PM on February 10, 2009


I'm skeptical as to how much of a difference it really makes, but Colgate Total does all the stuff you're looking for (and more! call now!). Most importantly, though, the cap has both screw-on AND flip-top functionality. Best. Feature. Ever. I would buy it for the cap technology alone, but it's good toothpaste, as well.
posted by phunniemee at 11:06 PM on February 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


my understanding is that most of the variety between brands and extras is in how abrasive the toothpastes are. whitening toothpastes tend to be more abrasive.
posted by vaguelyweird at 11:39 PM on February 10, 2009


Tom's of Maine fluoride-free toothpaste only promises a "clean, healthy-feeling mouth"

Note: that applies only to the fluoride-free toothpastes. They have toothpastes with fluoride.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:00 AM on February 11, 2009


Here's a discussion of toothpaste from Slate.com.

It's about ten years old, but I don't believe toothpaste technology has changed much since they started adding Triclosan (e.g., Colgate Total) around that time. From the article, if you care about clinical effectiveness, you'll want Colgate Total or its direct competitors. If not, then, as noted above, any toothpaste with floride will be about the same, and you'll be making a choice for different toothpaste aesthetics.
posted by chengjih at 4:44 AM on February 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, I was at the dentist last month (scary!) and she recommended Crest's Pro Health toothpaste. I have some dental problems to be fixed next month, and her opinion was that it was the best toothpaste on the market and would help significantly with the gingivitis and minor periodontal disease problems. I have noticed that the gingivitis is gone, and my teeth don't have that vague ache to them anymore. YMMV, of course. :) I always thought that toothpaste was all the same, so I picked whatever looked like it would taste the best.
posted by WowLookStars at 6:52 AM on February 11, 2009


Note: that applies only to the fluoride-free toothpastes. They have toothpastes with fluoride.

Right. I was just saying that it's unsafe to assume that all toothpastes will fight cavities, as fluoride-free varieties don't even purport to do so.

Incidentally, I use Pepsodent, which has fluoride and also claims to remove plaque, whiten teeth, and help keep gums healthy. It also only costs about a buck a tube.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:17 AM on February 11, 2009


One difference you often find between the "natural" and standard toothpastes is the use of sodium laureth sulfate, which may be an issue if you have a sensitivity to that particular additive. Flavor is highly subjective, I couldn't stand natural toothpastes when I first used them. Now, Crest, Colgate, and Aquafresh taste revoltingly sweet to me.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:30 AM on February 11, 2009


All the toothpastes you see in the supermarket and in the drug stores are the same, no matter what they say they put it in it. They all help fight cavities. That's it. The one with the peroxide bubbling action, the one with tarter control, the whitening one, the "natural" one - all do nothing but keep your teeth clean. Which is fine.

The major U.S. brands are not really allowed to put enough peroxide in a peroxide toothpaste for it to have any effect on your gums or teeth. Same goes for the tarter control and the other stuff.


There is only one a toothpaste that really has stuff in it (and enough of it) to help whiten your teeth. It's made in France and it has zinc and salt in it. It's called Teracxyl.
posted by Zambrano at 9:30 AM on February 11, 2009


Why not buy every toothpaste that strikes your fancy?

Or don't use paste every day. You can even use Monkey Brand some of the time.

You don't eat the same food for every meal, why use the same toothpaste afterward?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:58 PM on February 11, 2009


All the toothpastes you see in the supermarket and in the drug stores are the same, no matter what they say they put it in it.

This is not true. There is significant clinical evidence that some toothpaste ingredients reduce tartar more.
posted by grouse at 6:05 PM on February 11, 2009


Because KirkJobSluder brought up SLS, I'd like to plug one of my favorite toothpastes, and the only one that I've found that has no SLS, but does have fluoride. Seriously, try to find another one. (And let me know if you do.)

It's called Squigle, and last time I ordered some it was from homesteadmarket.com.
posted by qvtqht at 2:17 AM on February 12, 2009


Update: Behold, Tom's of Maine introduced it last year!
posted by qvtqht at 2:21 AM on February 12, 2009


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