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In addition to the type of floss and toothbrush you use — be it an electric toothbrush or a manual one — the toothpaste you brush with is also important to your dental health. But whether you shop in-person or online, “there is a bewildering array of toothpaste available,” said Dr. Edmond Hewlett, professor at the UCLA School of Dentistry. The seemingly endless options can make purchasing a tube a challenge, and when you factor in all the different variations of toothpaste to choose from — from teeth whitening and anti-tartar to toothpastes for kids — picking one out can seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be.
All of the dentists we spoke to recommended only buying toothpaste with the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. Hewlett explained that when you see that seal, it means the brand submitted data and other materials to the ADA and the organization determined that the product meets specified safety and efficacy requirements.
LEARN MORE How to shop for toothpaste
“You can’t go wrong when you look for that,” Hewlett said in reference to the ADA’s seal. “After that, it’s really a matter of personal preference.”
We talked to dentists about everything you should know about shopping for toothpaste and rounded up a handful of options you may want to consider the next time you need a new tube.
Best toothpaste to purchase for adults
To recommend the toothpaste options below, we referenced a list of toothpastes with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. We chose to highlight basic toothpaste varieties rather than specialized types — like whitening, sensitive or anti-tartar toothpastes — because experts told us these options clean teeth and help protect against cavities, which are the most important factors. All of the toothpastes we recommend also contain fluoride, per dentists’ advice.
Flavor: Ultra Mint | Size: 5.5 ounces
Flavor: Mint | Size: 6 ounces
Flavor: Cool Mint | Size: 8.2 ounces
Flavor: Mint or Watermelon | Size: 4.6 ounces
Flavor: Fresh Mint | Size: 6.3 ounces
Flavor: Mint | Size: 4 ounces (three tubes)
Flavor: Mint | Size: 3.4 ounces
Flavor: Mint | Size: 5 ounces
According to SprinJene, this toothpaste contains black seed oil to help prevent gingivitis and zinc to help prevent plaque.
How to shop for toothpaste
On the most basic level, toothpaste is meant to clean your teeth and help prevent cavities and oral disease, Hewlett said. When you’re shopping for a tube, there are three main questions you should consider, said Dr. Breno Reboucas, a professor at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine:
- Does it have the ADA seal of acceptance?
- Does it contain fluoride?
- Does it address any additional needs your specific teeth may require?
All toothpastes that earn the ADA Seal of Acceptance contain fluoride, an ingredient that dentists told us is proven to reduce your risk for cavities. While Hewlett said there’s been controversy over fluoride for decades, he explained that “it’s one of the most well-documented therapies in all of dentistry.” Toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance also does not contain flavoring agents like sugar that cause or contribute to tooth decay.
Once you’re browsing toothpaste options that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance, Reboucas said choosing one is mostly a matter of personal preference. Many people consider toothpaste’s flavor, for example, to narrow down their options.
Toothpaste for specialized needs
Some adults’ teeth have additional needs that specialized toothpaste options can address. You may want to whiten your teeth, remove tartar or find an option for sensitive teeth, for instance.
Reboucas said specialized toothpastes contain specific ingredients to help with those issues. Most whitening toothpaste is made with hydrogen peroxide. Anti-erosion toothpaste usually contains ingredients to restore the minerals in tooth enamel — like sodium fluoride and stannous fluoride — thus hardening them over time. And some toothpaste is flavor-free if people are sensitive to that.
Not everyone needs specialized toothpaste, however. Experts told us it’s important to speak with your dentist about what your teeth need before buying specialized toothpaste.
“Your dentist knows your oral health status better than anybody and is an advocate for your oral health, so consult with them and see what toothpaste they recommend for you,” Hewlett said.
What about charcoal toothpaste, “natural” toothpaste and other trends?
Beyond toothpaste that’s marketed for specific dental needs, dentists often field questions from patients about “trends” in the toothpaste space and whether these products are effective. We asked experts to share a few of the most common toothpaste trends they’re asked about and what we should know about them.
Hewlett said charcoal is often thought of as an ingredient that can absorb toxins and bacteria on your teeth or in your mouth, similar to how it purifies water. However, experts agreed that you should not use charcoal toothpaste. There is no charcoal toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance, and a study published in The Journal of The American Dental Association found that there wasn’t enough evidence to support efficacy claims. What’s more, experts said using charcoal toothpaste may damage the outer layer of enamel since charcoal is abrasive.
“Currently, the FDA does not define the term ‘natural toothpaste,’ which leaves consumers to define what natural means to them," said Dr. Kate Zoumboukos of SW Austin Dental. She said it’s common for the term “natural toothpaste” to describe options that are free of artificial flavors and ingredients, preservatives, sweetness additives and colors. Anything toothpaste is free from that causes it to be marketed as “natural” won’t impact its effectiveness so long as it has the ADA Seal of Acceptance, experts agreed.
Toothpaste most often comes in a gel or paste form, but some brands sell solid toothpaste usually in the form of a tablet you chew into a gum-like substance before brushing your teeth with it. There are no solid toothpaste options that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance, and thus they do not meet our experts’ guidance.