Got to a supermarket and you'll be faced with a wall of toothpaste, most of it branded by Colgate and claiming specialised ingredients such as "advanced whitening" and "enamel lock". But an analysis by CHOICE suggests that whitening toothpastes can't actually whiten, and you'll get much the same results from a store brand tube as from the costlier alternatives.
Picture by Felix Triller
The CHOICE analysis of 17 brands highlights that the actual differences are minimal, and that claims of whitening are exaggerated at best:
When we examined ingredients in a selection of whitening toothpastes, however, we found none contain a bleaching agent – required to physically alter the colour of teeth. The fine print often qualifies this by promising whiter teeth as a result of stain removal, not an overall whitening treatment. Of the 13 adult toothpastes we looked at, there was little difference in the active ingredients. All contain fluoride and an abrasive, the same humectant (which helps the paste retain moisture) and sweetener, as well as water, flavour and a lathering agent.
The cheapest toothpaste you can buy at a supermarket is $1.27, which gets you a 150 gram tube of the store brand offering. (As we've pointed out many times before, pricing on the cheapest store brand goods in Australia tends to be identical no matter which store you go to.) Even if you spend three times as much, the end results are much the same.
Dental experts consulted by CHOICE suggest that there's a legitimate need for toothpaste for sensitive teeth, but that other claims are questionable. The CHOICE analysis suggests, for instance, that the "micro-cleansing crystals" found in Colgate Advanced Whitening are the same basic abrasive used in Woolworths Home Brand toothpaste. The ingredient you actually want in your toothpaste is fluoride, which is a universal inclusion.
We've noted repeatedly that house brand goods are often just as functional as the pricier alternatives, a point CHOICE has also made before (with muesli being one notable example). We're often quick to complain about house brand goods sneakily replicating the packaging of big-name rivals and not being offered a choic, but that's a hard case to make with toothpaste: 92 per cent of the market is controlled by Colgate and GlaxoSmithKline, and we rank Colgate as one of our most-trusted brands.
What influences your toothpaste choice? (Readers won't be surprised to learn I'm a died-in-the-wool Home Brand consumer.) Tell us in the comments.