Why Those Fancy Toothpaste Ingredients Are A Complete Waste Of Money

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.

Toothpaste marketing [CHOICE via Mumbrella]


    :--] good to see Choice is confirming my (admittedly somewhat unsupported) intuition: that toothpaste is all more or less the same.

    I buy Cedel toothpaste because it's one of the very few that's made by an Australian company. Trying the one they make for sensitive teeth now to see if it makes a difference.

      Kind of dreading my next dentist visit because of the same reason - might look at this sort.

    I also buy Cedel brand because it's Australian made and owned, and cheaper than most of them as well. It's a win-win scenario when most of them are basically the same anyway.

    buy anything that doesn't have a strong mint flavour, thats about it for toothpaste choice for me.

    I buy Colgate Total, because it says on the box that it makes a 12 hour shield on my teeth.
    This way I can make tie fighter blaster noises as I brush my teeth, and pretend to be flying the Falcon.

    Activate the deflector shield!

      pew pew!

    I buy the one that tastes the best to me. Which is probably very clouded by 'what taste I am used to'. Usually, it's colgate total mint stripe.

    Like 90% of products I buy home brand toothpaste

    Baking Soda & Peroxide all the way. Had to try the various toothpastes when Colgate dropped their baking soda one and my teeth turned more and more yellow. Then the baking sode toothpaste magically returned from another brand (arm & hammer i think?) and I'm back to the feeling of a properly clean mouth that doesn't feel/smell like death in the morning.

    I use a whitening one, but only because I like the taste of it.

    I had a mate (dead now, RIP) who worked at Colgate, (then Beecham's) in UK as a development chemist.
    He told me all about toothpaste and how it (wasn't) developed at all. It contains the same base ingredients the world over - and the limitations on what suppliers can/can't do are strict. If we buy because of "whitening' or 'gum strengthening' properties, we are all victims of marketing hype.
    I constantly castigate my wife for buying "childrens" toothpaste. On the packet it says "suitable for age 3 to 9".
    Are we really supposed to belive that BS? Come on guys, let's get reall about this, why is so much aisle space reserved for toothpaste... I mean what the frig is going on?

      The dental care category and the shaving/razor category are in a tight race against the laundry and dishwashing categories for the prize of most convincing marketing BS that convinces consumers to pay more for less.
      Can't wait to see who wins! [/sarcasm]

      Not sure what you mean by children's toothpaste being from 3-9 but there is a very logical explanation for under 6 children's toothpaste. They have greatly diminished levels of fluoride which is to prevent kids from getting something called fluorosis.

    I use a fluoride-free herbal toothpaste. It's fantastic, contains a lot of herbal extracts rather than chemicals. Fluoride is good for your teeth but not your health; chances are you're swallowing a little bit of it every time you brush (twice per day). Add this up and over a year, that's a decent amount of fluoride going into your system

      Honestly you're probably doing more damage than good. The amount of fluoride present after rinsing and spitting is negligible and consider how long fluoride has been used there have been sufficient long-term health analyses to justify its use and negate any supposed health deficits. I'm keen to hear back though :)

        What? You can't get enough fluoride from a cup of tea all of a sudden? You know what they always say about having a balanced diet rather than using supplements...

        Anyway, that toothpaste Hayden is using has a bunch of glycerin in it which coats teeth and inhibits remineralisation. And the toothpaste you are using has sodium lauryl sulphate in it which has been proven to have a deleterious effect on gums.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now