Is Cheap Toothpaste a Bargain or a Bad Idea for Your Teeth?

Before heading to the checkout line with your high-priced or bargain toothpaste in your cart, here are a few things to consider.


Visits to the dentist can wreak havoc on your wallet, especially if you stop in for anything beyond routine care.

Dental cleanings and exams are recommended twice a year, so it’s up to you to perform routine maintenance between visits. But what works best when you’re selecting toothpaste — the name brand with tartar control, whitening, or other bells and whistles, or a simple generic or store brand?

Tempted to go the generic route to give your wallet a break?

Locate the ADA’s seal of approval

The first thing to look for when evaluating the quality of a generic toothpaste is the seal of approval from the American Dental Association. It provides you with “assurance that the product has been objectively evaluated for safety and effectiveness by an independent body of scientific experts, the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs,” the ADA’s website says. 

Examine ingredients

You should take things a step further and compare the active ingredients in the cheaper product you are considering with that of a brand-name product to see if the two are similar.

Says Livestrong:

The American Dental Association claims that a good toothpaste first and foremost should have fluoride as an ingredient. Fluoride has been shown in studies to be effective at reducing cavities by 40 percent.

It does so by strengthening the enamel of your teeth each time it is applied to the surface via your toothbrush. Fluoride also facilitates the removal of plaque and helps hedge against the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. All ADA-approved toothpastes contain this ingredient.

Other beneficial ingredients to look for, suggests the ADA, include:

  • Zinc citrate, pyrophosphates or triclosan to help reduce the accumulation of plaque or tartar
  • Strontium chloride or potassium nitrate to diminish sensitivity
  • Stannous fluoride and triclosan to hedge against the risk of gum inflammation

Ask your dentist for recommendations

Once you’ve checked the label for active ingredients, you may want to speak with your dentist about the product you’re considering. Also, inquire about low-cost alternatives that are just as effective.

You may find that your dentist doesn’t necessarily prefer one brand over the other, as long as your toothpaste has that all-important fluoride and an ingredient like zinc citrate that fights tartar buildup. DailyFinance notes:

Four out of five dentists say brand doesn’t matter, so anything beyond those two ingredients is likely increasing the retail price of your toothpaste. As a quick rule of thumb, avoid special features or additives that sound fancy. There’s no reason to pay more when many product[s] contain [the] same or similar active ingredients.

Other ways to save

There are other ways to save on the cost of toothpaste without reducing the quality of care you’ve giving your teeth (which, if you really care about your teeth and gums, includes the daily use of floss).

  • Use as recommended: Take a look at the tube and you will find that it instructs children to use a pea-sized amount each time they brush. Guess what? Suzette Standring wrote on The Huffington Post that that’s enough for adults as well. Less is definitely more — saving you money while preserving the surface of your teeth.
  • Coupon: Next time you’re at the dentist office, ask about whether coupons are available for patients. Also, go online or scan the newspaper to clip coupons from the manufacturer when they are available. In the past, I’ve purchased brand-name tubes for pennies on the dollar.
  • Squeeze from the bottom: Roll the tube from the bottom to the top and you’ll be surprised at how much you can actually retrieve.
  • Whip out the scissors: Down to the last drop? Cut the tube open with a pair of scissors to access the remaining paste.

Too lazy to do the legwork? Take a look at the comprehensive list of toothpastes that have been accepted by the ADA. You will find that multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns and hefty price tags don’t necessarily equate to higher-quality products.

What’s your experience with bargain toothpaste? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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