The 8 Best Toothpastes to Buy in 2021

Score a bright and healthy smile

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First Look

Best Overall: Colgate Cavity Protection Toothpaste at Amazon

"This teeth cleaning solution is made with a bunch of effective ingredients, namely fluoride."

Best Budget: Crest Pro-Health Pro/Active Defense at Amazon

"An activated foam toothpaste, Crest's Active Defense will foam in your mouth, giving you that satisfyingly clean feel post-brush."

Best Whitening Toothpaste: Arm & Hammer Advance White Extreme Whitening at Amazon

"Many users claim to be lifers, using it for several years, even after trying out other more expensive options."

Best Charcoal: Cali White Activated Charcoal & Organic Coconut Oil Toothpaste at Amazon

"Made with food-grade activated charcoal so there'll be no damage to your enamel."

Best for Gum Disease: Parodontax Clean Mint at Amazon

"A go-to product for people experiencing bleeding gums and a deterrent for plaque."

Best for Sensitive Teeth: Sensodyne Pronamel Gentle Whitening Toothpaste at Amazon

"The number one best-selling toothpaste on Amazon."

Best for Bad Breath: TheraBreath Fresh Breath Toothpaste at Amazon

"One of the most effective and professional grade products for anyone experiencing bad breath."

Best for Dry Mouth: Biotene Fresh Mint at Amazon

"Formulated with biotene to effectively help with dry mouth."

Unlike face cream, body lotion, or soap, toothpaste isn’t an optional self-care product. Brushing teeth daily with toothpaste is a fundamental tool in the prevention of gum disease, which impacts almost half of adults over 30 years of age in the United States, per the CDC.

“While the dental industry has evolved over the past decades, brushing and flossing remain the most important practices for keeping our teeth and gums healthy,” explains Heather Kunen DDS, MS, co-founder of Beam Street. “Brushing our teeth two to three times per day with a fluoridated toothpaste is our best defense against invading bacteria that cause cavities and gums disease.”

With hundreds of kinds of toothpaste to choose from, ranging in price from low to high, the act of selecting one can be a tad overwhelming. However, Dr. Kunen urges narrowing down your search to those with the active ingredient of fluoride, which is a must to be considered for the ADA Seal of Acceptance. “I tell patients to choose the toothpaste that they enjoy, as long as it contains fluoride as fluoride is still the most important mineral for keeping our teeth strong,” she says. 

Per the American Dental Association, other active ingredients can help improve tooth sensitivity, whiten teeth, reduce gingivitis or protect against tartar build-up, or prevent enamel erosion or bad breath.

Here are the best toothpastes on the market today.

Best Overall: Colgate Cavity Protection Toothpaste

Colgate Cavity Protection

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • American Dental Association (ADA) accepted

  • Contains fluoride for cavity prevention

  • Fresh mint flavor

Cons
  • Watery texture means it may slide off the brush easily

  • Cap isn’t steady and won’t allow tube to stand upright

Colgate’s Cavity Protection Toothpaste is basically the gold standard for dentists and consumers alike. This teeth cleaning solution is made with a bunch of effective ingredients, namely fluoride. One that is missing? Titanium dioxide, an inorganic chemical compound added to many kinds of toothpaste to give them a white hue, which the Environmental Working Group (EWG) notes may be carcinogenic.

Active Ingredients: Fluoride | Uses: Clean teeth and prevent cavities

Expert Insight

"The ADA seal means that toothpaste has been independently tested to ensure that the fluoride and the ingredients in it are not only safe but they're efficacious and they work. By doing that you're ensuring that the toothpaste you're using is safe and effective." —Julius Manz, DDS, American Dental Association Spokesperson

Best Budget: Crest Pro-Health Pro/Active Defense

Pros
  • Features active defense technology, which fights plaque and bacteria

  • American Dental Association (ADA) accepted

  • Contains .454% fluoride

Cons
  • Higher price

  • Can have a drying effect on lips

This reasonably priced, ADA-accepted gel toothpaste does everything you need it to, from fighting plaque and keeping your teeth and gums protected against diseases to freshening your breath to minty perfection. One of the key ingredients is antibacterial stannous fluoride, scientifically proven to reduce oral bacteria. It is also an activated foam toothpaste, meaning that it literally foams in your mouth, giving it the ability to clean hard-to-reach places.

Active Ingredients: Fluoride | Uses: Clean teeth and prevent cavities, plaque and bacteria buildup

Best Whitening Toothpaste: Arm & Hammer Advance White Extreme Whitening

Pros
  • Dental grade baking soda and peroxide to help whiten teeth

  • Contains .24% fluoride

Cons
  • May be irritating to sensitive teeth

  • Lower percentage of fluoride than some other products

Baking soda is the active ingredient in most teeth whitening products, so it only makes sense that Arm & Hammer, America’s go-to baking soda brand, is behind one of the highest-rated (as well as affordable) teeth whitening toothpastes. In addition to baking soda, high levels of peroxide work to fight against those pesky set-in stains, while fluoride keeps your teeth sparkling and clean.

Active Ingredients: Fluoride, baking soda, peroxide | Uses: Clean teeth and prevent cavities; Whitens and brightens teeth

Best Charcoal: Cali White Activated Charcoal & Organic Coconut Oil Toothpaste

Pros
  • Contains activated charcoal to whiten and brighten teeth

  • Naturally flavored with peppermint oil

  • Charcoal paste is less messy than powder version

Cons
  • Contains xylitol sweetener

  • Formula does not contain fluoride

While dental experts are on the fence when it comes to charcoal toothpastes to help whiten teeth, a 2019 study supported claims that it is an effective tool in removing yellow pigment from your teeth. If you are in the market for an activated charcoal opinion, we recommend Cali White, a non-peroxide formula that lists Certified Organic coconut oil, baking soda, and tea tree oil on its ingredient list. What separates Cali White from its competitors? It is made with food-grade activated charcoal, which means there will be zero grit damaging your enamel, one of the biggest concerns when it comes to charcoal toothpastes. 

Active Ingredients: Activated charcoal | Uses: Clean teeth; Whitens and brightens teeth

Best for Gum Disease: Parodontax Clean Mint

Pros
  • Specially formulated to help with gingivitis and improve the seal between gums and teeth

  • Freshens breath with cool mint flavor

  • Helps with tender and bleeding gums

  • Contains 0.454% fluoride

Cons
  • Not a whitening formula

  • May be too harsh for sensitive teeth

Periodontitis is an inflammation of the gums that damages the tissue and bones in your mouth. When plaque builds up and remains untreated, the bone that supports your teeth can be destroyed, leading to loose teeth or even tooth loss. Parodontax is the go-to product for people who are experiencing one of the early signs of gum disease—bleeding gums. Even if you don't have gum problems, this formula helps keep plaque at bay. 

Active Ingredients: Fluoride | Uses: Clean teeth and prevent cavities; Fights gingivitis and improves gum health

Best for Sensitive Teeth: Sensodyne Pronamel Whitening Strengthening Toothpaste

Pros
  • Contains minerals that strengthen enamel

  • Gentle formula polishes teeth and helps remove stains

Cons
  • The mint flavor leaves a sweet aftertaste

  • Poor cap design collects the toothpaste and is difficult to close

Sensitive teeth or tooth discomfort can be the result of worn tooth enamel, exposed tooth roots, a cavity, cracked or chipped tooth, or a worn filling or gum disease. Whatever the reason is for your dental pain, brushing your teeth is one of the few things that can exacerbate it, which makes picking the right toothpaste extremely important. Those who have sensitive teeth have been relying on Sensodyne products for decades. It contains potassium nitrate to soothe inflamed nerves and works to protect against cavities, all while removing stains and whitening teeth.

Active Ingredients: Fluoride | Uses: Clean teeth and prevent cavities in sensitive teeth; Whitens and brightens teeth

Best for Bad Breath: TheraBreath Fresh Breath Toothpaste

Pros
  • Contains .24% fluoride

  • Fights bad breath at the source and freshens the whole mouth

  • Brand was founded by a dentist and bad breath expert

Cons
  • Toothpaste has a low fluoride level

  • Sweetened with xylitol

Nobody wants bad breath, aka halitosis, which can be caused by a variety of factors ranging from the consumption of certain foods (like garlic) to underlying health issues. Luckily, many cases of bad breath can be cleared up simply by improving dental hygiene, which is why there are so many toothpastes and mouthwash products on the market targeting the issue. The key ingredient of their 24-Hour Fresh Breath Toothpaste is plaque and cavity-fighting fluoride in addition to natural ingredients like aloe vera, to help soothe any irritation. It is also free of all detergents, artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners.

Active Ingredients: Fluoride | Uses: Clean teeth and prevent cavities; Freshens breath

Best for Dry Mouth: Biotene Fresh Mint

Pros
  • Contains biotene to effectively help with dry mouth

  • Toothpaste has 0.25% fluoride to fight cavities

Cons
  • Sweetened with sucralose, a no-calorie sweetener

  • Leaves what some describe as an unpleasant aftertaste

When your salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist, dry mouth can occur. While it can be a result of many factors—including underlying health conditions, aging, or a side effect of medication—the right toothpaste can definitely help with any dry mouth discomfort. Biotene is formulated to do the job. And, according to reviewers, it is the best dry mouth toothpaste on the market. It is free of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which some people claim irritates their gums, while its key ingredient, fluoride, will help protect your teeth from cavities and plaque. 

Active Ingredients: Fluoride, Biotene | Uses: Clean teeth and prevent cavities; Helps combat dry mouth

Final Verdict

There is a reason Colgate toothpaste has been a go-to brand for dental care since the 1800s—their products are high quality and effective. We picked Colgate Cavity Protection Toothpaste (view at Amazon) as our top pick because it is the ultimate multi-tasker of the bunch, according to both dentists and reviewers. It is also extremely affordable and free of titanium dioxide. That being said, if you are hoping to tackle specific dental issues, such as yellowing teeth, dry mouth, or simply have sensitive teeth, or are on the market for a fluoride-free product, then you should look into other options. 

What to Look for in a Toothpaste

Ingredients:

It’s not the flashy label that makes your teeth flashy and healthy, it’s the ingredients in the tube. Per the American Dental Association, other active ingredients can help improve tooth sensitivity, whiten teeth, reduce gingivitis or protect against tartar build-up, or prevent enamel erosion or bad breath. Here are a few of the active ingredients to look for.

Fluoride: This is the single most important ingredient in any toothpaste. It “The main thing that the toothpaste adds to the brushing equation is fluoride. Fluoride is going to be the primary active ingredient in the toothpaste,” says Dr. Manz. 

Surfactant: If you see a scary-sounding term like sodium lauryl sulfate on the label, it’s not a cause for concern, per Dr. Manz. “Sodium lauryl sulfate which makes the toothpaste have that foaming action,” he says. “If you go to Europe, for instance, their toothpastes are very flat and they don't have that foaming action. Americans who try that toothpaste find it very unpalatable. So, the foaming makes it palatable, makes it a little bit more pleasurable for us to brush which is important so that we do it.”

Charcoal: In the last few years activated charcoal (a.k.a. activated carbon) has popped in all kinds of personal care products touting its detoxifying properties. In the last few years activated charcoal (a.k.a. activated carbon) has popped in all kinds of personal care products touting its detoxifying properties. It’s proven to be another clutch ingredient for removing plaque buildup and surface stains and has popped up in trendy toothpastes.

Hydrogen Peroxide: Whitening Hydrogen peroxide removes both surface and intrinsic stains, leaving noticeably brighter, whiter teeth.

Abrasives: “Toothpastes may also contain calcium carbonate, silicate aluminum carbonates, or aluminum hydroxide; those things are abrasives,” says Dr. Manz. “I think most of the data really indicates that the action of the bristles of the toothbrush on our tooth is what really removes the majority of the plaque in the calculus.” These are cleaning and polishing agents added to toothpaste to remove surface stains and break up bacterial colonies. Scientific data show that any toothpaste with a relative dentin abrasion of 250 or below is safe to use for daily brushing with appropriate techniques.

Taste:

If you don’t like the taste of toothpaste, chances are, you aren’t going to want to use it. So, if the smell or taste of tea tree oil or mint doesn’t appeal to you, consider avoiding a product in which it is an ingredient. Unfortunately, the only real way to do a toothpaste taste test is by trying it out. Luckily, most retailers have return policies. 

Specific Dental Concerns:

If you have any special dental needs—for example bleeding gums or sensitive teeth—you should choose a toothpaste formulated for that reason. Many people who fall into this category find traditional toothpastes too harsh for their needs. “Those patients with sensitive teeth should look for brands like Sensodyne that incorporate potassium nitrate into their toothpaste formulas, as potassium nitrate helps to soothe inflamed nerves,” Dr. Kunen suggests. If you're unsure which toothpaste will best fit your individual needs, ask your dentist for guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does toothpaste expire, and can you use expired toothpaste?

    Toothpaste does come with an expiration date stamped on the end of the tube. It’s usually two years out from the date of purchase and plenty of time to brush through every ounce before the date rolls around. The main active ingredient, fluoride, becomes less effective after that time. It can also change color and taste. Expired toothpaste won’t harm you, but it also won’t be as effective for cleaning your teeth and preventing cavities, either.

  • How much toothpaste should you use when brushing?

    The recommended amount of toothpaste to use when brushing varies by age. The ADA recommends that children use a smear of toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) from the time the first tooth erupts until they're three years old. From three years on up through adulthood, they can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. These small amounts help limit children’s exposure to ingested fluoride, to keep it to safe levels. As tempting as it may be to squeeze on a large swirl of toothpaste like on the commercials, adults don’t actually need any more.

What Experts Say

“The fluoride in toothpaste prevents the mineralization of the enamel due to acid attack from food and drink. If you have fluoride in your water and fluoride in the teeth from toothpaste, then the enamel remineralizes again more rapidly and you don't create that long-lasting demineralization which leads to cavities. The simplest explanation is that fluoride makes the teeth stronger.”

—Julius Manz, DDS, American Dental Association Spokesperson

Why Trust Verywell Health?

As an internationally recognized health writer and product guru, Leah Groth understands that nobody wants to waste their time or money on products that fail to rear results. Over the years, she has interviewed the world's top health experts and reviewed hundreds of items, to help readers like you discover the most effective health gadgets, goops, and aids that will help you look and feel your very best.

Additional reporting to this story by Jennifer Nied

As a seasoned health writer, Jennifer Nied understands how vital quality product recommendations are for treating symptoms safely and effectively at home. For over 10 years, she has reviewed products, interviewed experts, scrutinized ingredients, and pored over research studies and claims, to help readers like you understand what works for your specific conditions. Every product in this piece was selected taking into account recommendations from doctors, published research, and real customer reviews.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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