Is Cheap Toothpaste a Bad Idea for Your Teeth?

Find out whether it makes sense to look for bargain toothpaste -- or if you are putting your teeth at risk.

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

Dentists generally recommend cleanings and exams 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 brand with tartar control, whitening and other bells and whistles?
  • Or a simple generic or store brand?

Locate the ADA’s seal of acceptance

The first thing to look for when evaluating the quality of a generic toothpaste is the seal of acceptance from the American Dental Association. It provides you with assurance that the product is worthwhile.

As the ADA’s website says:

A product earns the ADA Seal of Acceptance by providing scientific evidence that demonstrates the safety and efficacy, which the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs carefully evaluates according to objective requirements.

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.

For example, fluoride has been shown in studies to be effective at reducing cavities. 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:

  • Potassium salts, stannous fluoride, amorphous calcium phosphate, casein phosphopeptide and calcium sodium phosphosilicate 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, 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 another, as long as your toothpaste has that all-important fluoride and other key ingredients. 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:

  • Use as recommended: A pea-sized amount of toothpaste is fine each time you brush. 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.
  • 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.

Finally, 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.

Allison Martin
Allison Martin @amthewriter
After spending years as a governmental accountant, I decided to transition into the world of freelance writing. When I'm not busy writing, I enjoy mentoring mommy-preneurs and helping others manage their finances. ... More

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