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Best Toothpaste

By: Angela Stringfellow on March 24, 2017

Editor's note:
Colgate Total remains the best toothpaste for cavity prevention and overall dental health; Crest 3D White Luxe Glamorous White is tops for whitening teeth, especially when combined with Crest 3D White mouthwash. If you have sensitive teeth, Sensodyne ProNamel Gentle Whitening continues to win over users, while those who prefer fluoride-free toothpaste love Tom's of Maine.

Colgate Total Review
Best Reviewed

Best toothpaste

Colgate Total professes to fight plaque germs for up to 12 hours, and its several different formulations are geared toward targeting common oral health problems (Advanced Deep Clean, Daily Repair, Advanced Whitening and a handful of others). Its FDA-approved antibacterial formula is often touted as the best line of defense against gingivitis. Reviewers say the product delivers lasting fresh breath, a pleasant taste and a squeaky-clean feeling.

Buy for $3.85
Crest 3D White Luxe Glamorous White
Best Reviewed

Best whitening toothpaste

If you want whiter teeth, Crest 3D White Luxe Glamorous White claims to remove up to 95 percent of surface stains within three days with twice-daily brushing. Part of the Crest 3D White whitening lineup, users say it works especially well for maintaining teeth that have been professionally whitened – particularly when used in conjunction with other Crest 3D White products. It also contains fluoride for daily cavity protection.

Buy for $11.99
Crest 3D White Luxe Glamorous White Multi-Care
Runners Up

Whitening mouthwash

If you're looking for an added whitening boost, users say Crest 3D White Multi-Care whitening mouthwash works great when combined with Crest 3D White toothpaste or other whitening products. In addition to removing surface stains, Crest 3D White Multi-Care Whitening Mouthwash protects teeth against the formation of future stains. Reviewers say it has a pleasant, not-overpowering minty taste and, with continued use, does help to maintain whiter teeth.

Buy for $18.90
Sensodyne ProNamel Gentle Whitening
Best Reviewed

Best sensitive toothpaste

Sensodyne is the leading toothpaste brand for people with sensitive gums and teeth, and the ProNamel Gentle Whitening Toothpaste is the obvious favorite among users. The vast majority of owner reviewers say it doesn't cause irritation, and it is specially formulated to combat acid erosion by re-hardening acid-softened enamel. It also gradually -- and gently! -- whitens teeth, and users say it has a pleasant minty flavor.

Tom's of Maine Fluoride-Free Toothpaste
Best Reviewed

Best fluoride-free toothpaste

Instead of fluoride, Tom's of Maine Antiplaque and Whitening Fluoride-Free Toothpaste uses zinc citrate sourced from zinc, a naturally occurring mineral, and xylitol, which is derived from birch trees or corn. Experts say the ingredients raise a low level of health concern; it contains no artificial dyes, sweeteners or flavors, and it's even gluten-free. Most users love the mild, pleasant taste and say the product is effective in battling plaque. 

Buy for $7.49

Toothpaste isn't heavily regulated, but some are evaluated by the ADA

There is no agency that regulates toothpaste, but some toothpastes earn the ADA (American Dental Association) Seal of Acceptance. This means that the product inside has been scientifically evaluated to be safe and effective. The ADA does not give its seal to fluoride-free products, but just because a product does not have the ADA seal, that does not mean it's not a safe, effective toothpaste. To help you find the best products for all your dental health needs, we also cover teeth whitening products and electric toothbrushes in separate reports.

Types of Toothpaste

Toothpaste

According to dentists, the best toothpaste protects teeth from cavities, softened enamel and plague, which hardens into tartar if not removed at least every 24 hours. Tartar -- also known as calculus -- builds up and makes teeth and gums susceptible to decay. This leads to gingivitis, which can develop into serious periodontal disease. Users have slightly different priorities, generally looking for toothpaste with a palatable flavor, good consistency (neither too runny nor too hard) and a pleasant texture. People also seek a clean, fresh feeling -- and appearance -- after brushing.

Whitening Toothpaste

This type of toothpaste aims to brighten teeth, but the majority simply remove surface stains rather than changing the underlying color. Still, these products are good for people with coffee-, wine- or cigarette-stained teeth -- or for those who want to maintain the whiteness of their teeth after using teeth whitening products, like whitening strips, or receiving professional treatment. These toothpastes are usually "all-in-one" and are designed to fight plaque while whitening. Most major toothpaste makers also produce a separate whitening mouthwash to use in conjunction with your toothpaste.

Sensitive Toothpaste

This type of toothpaste is designed to alleviate tooth and gum sensitivity by building up the user's resistance using a chemical anti-sensitivity agent like potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. Some users only need to use a sensitive toothpaste for a few months -- such as after using a whitening product like strips -- while others need to use it long-term to keep ongoing sensitivity at bay. However, sensitive toothpaste has a cumulative effect, so they are most effective when used consistently for twice-daily brushing.

Fluoride-Free Toothpaste

These are preferred by some people who are sensitive to fluoride or simply prefer to avoid fluoride-containing products. Although there are a number of fluoride-free options that fight plaque and freshen breath, no fluoride-free toothpastes are approved by the American Dental Association (ADA), as fluoride is considered the gold standard among experts for cavity prevention. Fluoride-free toothpastes often contain xylitol, an ingredient derived from birch trees or corn, zinc, and natural extracts from roots, leaves, or fruit.

Finding The Best Toothpaste
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We found expert reviews recommending the best toothpaste for different purposes – such as whitening toothpaste and toothpaste for sensitivity -- at DavidEvansDDS.com, RealSimple.com and MensHealth.com. For natural toothpaste, GoodGuide.com provides impartial ratings for ingredients, health and environmental risks, and other considerations important to users who prefer a natural alternative to traditional toothpaste. However, because the factors that make one toothpaste better than another are largely subjective, we relied heavily on consumer opinions from sites like Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Walgreens.com and TotalBeauty.com, where we found thousands of user reviews offering feedback on the taste and performance of different toothpastes. We combine expert and user feedback to come up with our recommendations for the best toothpaste overall, as well as the best whitening toothpaste, sensitive toothpaste and fluoride-free toothpaste.

The best toothpaste

For a dependable toothpaste that provides lasting fresh breath protection, take a look at Colgate Total (Est. $4). It comes in several different formulations: Daily Repair, Advanced Whitening, Advanced Deep Clean, Advanced Fresh + Whitening, Clean Mint, Fresh Mint Stripe Gel and Whitening.

Colgate Total is accepted by the American Dental Association (ADA) and contains both fluoride and triclosan -- a broad-spectrum antibiotic -- to kill bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. A copolymer allows the triclosan to remain active between brushings, even after you eat or drink.

Although there has been recent controversy surrounding triclosan -- some scientific findings claim it can act as an endocrine disruptor in animals, and possibly in fetuses -- both Colgate and the FDA maintain that the antibacterial agent is safe for human use and extremely effective in preventing gingivitis. Colgate Total is not recommended for kids under 6, as its antibacterial properties have not been tested for young children. It's moderately abrasive and contains sodium lauryl sulfate, which can sometimes irritate sensitive mouths.

RealSimple.com names Colgate Total its Best Overall Toothpaste in a roundup of several oral care products, citing its germ-fighting capabilities. Specifically, the review mentions Colgate Total Enamel Strength, which is now called Colgate Total Daily Repair. This formulation aims to strengthen teeth by re-mineralizing weakened enamel. Colgate Total Daily Repair is also named the best toothpaste for mouth health by editors at MensHealth.com, who base their recommendations on feedback from a panel of dentists.

Hundreds of user reviewers are very enthusiastic about Colgate Total's pleasant taste and good cleaning power. Some say the Whitening formula doesn't do all that much in terms of whitening teeth, but generally, the majority of Colgate Total users seem to love it as their go-to daily toothpaste.

If you're looking for a toothpaste without triclosan, Crest Complete (Est. $4) is also a favorite of users. Like Colgate Total, Crest Complete comes in a variety of formulations including Whitening Plus Scope, Whitening Plus Scope Dual Blast, Extra Whitening with Tartar Protection, Whitening Plus Cinnamon Expressions, Whitening Plus Scope Outlast, Whitening Plus Herbal Mint Expressions and Whitening Plus Deep Clean. It earns the top spot in TotalBeauty.com's roundup (which is based on reader feedback), along with praise from thousands of reviewers across Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Walgreens.com.

Users say Crest Complete tastes great and leaves them with lasting fresh breath. However, like Colgate Total, some users say Crest Complete's whitening formulations don't really have that much of a whitening effect, although they do help to prevent new stains from forming.

Editors at MensHealth.com recommend Crest ProHealth (Est. $5), noting that it's the only toothpaste accepted by the American Dental Association in six different categories. It also comes in several formulations, including Advanced Deep Clean Mint, Advanced Gum Protection, Advanced Active Strengthening, Smooth Peppermint, Sensitive & Enamel Shield, Whitening Power, Clean Mint and several options for children. RealSimple.com's Sara Smith also gives Crest ProHealth a nod, specifically the Sensitive & Enamel Shield formulation.

Users, however, are slightly less enthusiastic about Crest ProHealth compared to Crest Complete and the top-rated Colgate Total. Among reviews for nearly every formulation of this toothpaste, we read at least a few reviews noting its grainy texture – while some users rationalize that it probably plays a role in its teeth-scrubbing performance, others are turned off by the gritty feel. Many reviewers do appreciate Crest ProHealth's mild mint taste, especially those who find the flavor of most toothpaste too strong.

Best whitening toothpaste

If your smile could use a little brightening, Crest 3D White Luxe Glamorous White (Est. $4) is a popular choice. It claims to remove 95 percent of surface stains in just three days when used as directed. Crest 3D White doesn't actually whiten teeth -- instead, it removes stains with a polishing silica ingredient. Like all the other products we've discussed, Crest 3D White contains fluoride, so regardless of its whitening abilities, it'll give you an anti-cavity benefit with daily use.

Crest 3D White has earned thousands of customer reviews on Amazon.com, the vast majority of which are positive. Users say the product is an especially good choice for maintaining teeth that have already been professionally whitened. The minty taste is also a big hit, and users say it offers long-lasting fresh breath. A few people report some sensitivity after continued use of this toothpaste -- a common effect of whitening products -- especially when used in conjunction with other Crest 3D White products such as the whitening strips.

Another option for whiter teeth is Colgate Optic White (Est. $5), which earns mostly positive feedback from hundreds of reviewers at Walmart.com and earns a spot on TotalBeauty.com's best toothpaste roundup (which is based on reader feedback). Like most toothpaste, Colgate Optic White comes in several formulations in addition to the original Optic White including Radiant, Express White, Lasting White and High Impact White. Both the Express White and High Impact White formulations contain twice the amount of whitening ingredient (hydrogen peroxide) compared to Optic White Sparkling Mint, the standard formulation of this whitening toothpaste.

If used twice daily for four to six weeks, Colgate Optic White claims to whiten teeth by three shades or more, depending on the specific formulation. The Express White formulation promises to whiten teeth in just three days, and all formulations are safe for daily use and won't damage tooth enamel. User opinions vary on whether these claims hold true; while most say their teeth are noticeably whiter after using Colgate Optic White for several weeks, there are a few detractors who say they notice little difference. The majority of reviewers agree that Colgate Optic White tastes great.

Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant (Est. $4) is another whitening option that comes in three formulations: Clean & Fresh, Rejuvenating and Bright & Strong. The Clean & Fresh and Rejuvenating formulations do not contain hydrogen peroxide, an ingredient that can cause sensitivity for some consumers. The Rejuvenating and Bright & Strong formulations promise to strengthen and repair tooth enamel in addition to whitening teeth. All three formulations use a combination of baking soda and silica to lift and remove surface stains for brighter, whiter teeth.

Thousands of reviewers on sites like Walmart.com, Amazon.com and Walgreens.com say this toothpaste tastes great and leaves their breath minty fresh without leaving an unpleasant aftertaste. Like most whitening toothpaste, Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant gets mixed feedback on how well it actually whitens teeth, although a good number of users report a noticeable difference.

If whitening toothpaste alone doesn't cut it, consider adding a whitening mouthwash to your daily regimen, such as Crest 3D White (Est. $8), which is part of the Crest 3D White lineup of teeth whitening products.  It can be used in conjunction with whitening toothpaste or ordinary toothpaste, although most users pair it with the Crest 3D White line of toothpaste. Crest 3D White mouthwash comes in three formulations including Luxe Diamond Strong, Luxe Glamorous White Multi-Care and Luxe Arctic Fresh Multi-Care. All three formulations promise to whiten teeth. The Luxe Diamond Strong formulation also promises to strengthen weakened tooth enamel, and both Multi-Care formulations not only remove surface stains but also protect against the formation of future stains.

We read hundreds of user reviews for Crest 3D White's whitening mouthwash, most of which are positive. Some say the flavor is too sweet, while others appreciate that it doesn't have an overpowering minty or medicinal taste. Opinions are mixed on the whitening effect; while some say they do notice a difference after several weeks of use, a few users point out that their teeth returned to their prior shade after they stopped using this mouthwash. Most reviewers who report noticeably whiter teeth say they use Crest 3D White mouthwash along with other products from the Crest 3D White lineup.

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Toothpaste buying guide

What every best Toothpaste has:

  • Tartar-fighting abilities.
  • Enamel protection.
  • Non-irritating, safe ingredients.

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