Colgate or Crest?

How to Know Which Toothpaste Is Best for You

Tending to her pearly whites An attractive young woman brushing her teeth in the morning
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When it comes to toothpaste, you probably won't be surprised to learn that Crest and Colgate are two of the leading brands in the United States. And both make claims about their effectiveness in all the major oral health categories from cavity prevention to teeth whitening to breath freshening.

Are they really all that different though? In one particular way, yes. Crest touts its stannous fluoride over the sodium fluoride in other toothpaste brands. Colgate, meanwhile, has a lock on triclosan, an antibacterial agent for the treatment of gingivitis. Here's what you need to know if you're choosing between the two brands.

Colgate Total and Triclosan

Colgate Total was the first toothpaste to apply for and receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating gum disease (gingivitis). The active ingredient in Colgate is an antibacterial called triclosan. It's paired with a copolymer that helps the ingredient's effects remain active in the mouth for up to 12 hours.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, triclosan is an antimicrobial agent that helps to "slow or stop the growth of bacteria, fungi, and mildew." In 1997, the FDA found that the triclosan in Colgate Total was effective in preventing gingivitis

You may have read that in recent years there have been concerns about the safety of triclosan in products such as soap and body wash. For example, some animal studies have found a link between triclosan and low levels of certain thyroid hormones; other studies suggest triclosan plays a role in antibiotic resistance.

Despite concerns about hypothyroidism and antibiotic resistance, there is no evidence that triclosan in toothpaste poses any risk to users. Even so, as a non-essential ingredient, some manufacturers have removed it from their products.

Crest Pro-Health and Stannous Fluoride

Crest Pro-Health uses stannous fluoride instead of the sodium fluoride most other toothpaste brands use, including Colgate. Stannous fluoride relies on the element tin to bind the fluoride. Studies have found that it may be better for preventing erosion.

A side effect of stannous fluoride is the possible staining of the teeth. In addition, some people exposed to stannous fluoride toothpaste experience the sloughing of the gums (where the thin surface layer peels away).

Sloughing isn't harmful, but it can be alarming—and it can cause gums to be sensitive to spices. So if you love your jalapenos, you may not want to brush with stannous fluoride.

A Word From Verywell

Most dentists still recommend that the chief ingredient consumers should look for in their toothpaste is fluoride, which both Crest and Colgate toothpaste contain (albeit in different forms). Fluoride is the only ingredient that has been shown to restore a tooth's enamel, provided it hasn't yet decayed.

Toothpaste is an important part of your at-home oral care routine, but whatever type you choose will not work its best if you don't brush at least twice a day and floss at least once, as well as visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleaning. So pick the paste you're most comfortable with and then use it.

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Article Sources
  • A, Ganss C. "The Role of Fluoride in Erosion Therapy." Monogr Oral Sci. 2014;25:230-43.
  • Artopoulou II, Powers JM, Chambers MS. "In Vitro Staining Effects of Stannous Fluoride and Sodium Fluoride on Ceramic Material." J Prosthet Dent. 2010 Mar;103(3):163-9. 
  • Steckelberg JM. " Should I Avoid Products That Contain Triclosan?" Mayo Clinic. 2017.
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Web Archive."Triclosan Facts." 2010.
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "5 Things to Know About Triclosan." 2016.