Consumers may be spending more than five times more on specialty toothpaste – such as whitening or sensitivity products – with little to no oral health benefit.
Specialty toothpastes cost up to $10 a tube compared to about $2 for a standard toothpaste – with sensitive, natural and charcoal toothpastes among the most expensive.
But are consumers who opt for these premium products reaping the claimed health benefits?
Dental health experts told The New Daily that unless you suffer from tooth sensitivity or gum disease, you could be saving money by buying a standard fluoride toothpaste.
Are specialty toothpastes worth the extra dough?
Supermarket shelves stock a huge range of toothpaste varieties and it can be confusing to determine the benefits of each product and the best choice to suit your needs.
Tan Nguyen, president of the Australian Dental and Oral Health Therapists Association, said that marketing costs could, in part, explain why some products are so much more expensive than others.
“The more expensive toothpastes are marketed to give the ‘wow’ factor that some toothpastes could make your teeth whiter, brighter and healthier,” he told The New Daily.
“The manufacturing of toothpaste is fairly inexpensive, and this is evident because there are so many standard toothpastes on the market.
“Most industries won’t develop products if they are too expensive to manufacture and where there is already a demand being supplied.”
Mr Nguyen said that, in general, all the average person needs for tooth decay and gum disease protection is standard, non-whitening, non-senstive fluoride toothpaste.
Laureate Professor Eric Reynolds of Melbourne Dental School, who has spent years analysing and testing toothpaste products, said toothpaste is largely considered as a cosmetic product.
“Some companies make claims where the science isn’t necessarily there to support it, particularly the lesser known brands,” he said.
“If you do have gum disease or tooth sensitivity then it is a good idea to use these products as there is evidence of the benefits.
“But only use them if you need to because otherwise you’re paying a lot more.”
Find the best toothpaste for you
Standard toothpaste (with fluoride)
Mr Nguyen said that using fluoride toothpaste gives your teeth about 10 times the resistance against tooth decay.
“Non-fluoride toothpastes do not have any fluoride and have very limited effects in reducing tooth decay risk,” he said.
“Poor oral health has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.”
Sensitive toothpastes are generally more expensive.
“They can help to block dental nerve pain, but most tooth sensitivity is only a problem if our diets have too many acidic foods and drinks,” Mr Nguyen said.
“These include soft drinks, wine and lemon water.”
“People with sensitivity issues would benefit from sensitive toothpaste, but if you can manage your diet, you shouldn’t need to continue using it down the track.”
Unless it contains peroxide, Mr Reynolds told The New Daily that whitening toothpaste is unlikely to have a significant impact.
“At best, these products will make your teeth one or two shades lighter but it’s not very dramatic,” he said.
“The best way to whiten your teeth is to go to a dental clinic, you’ll get better results.
“If you use products with concentrated bleach to whiten your teeth and use it far too often, it can make your teeth sensitive and can be painful.”
Mr Nguyen said that some whitening toothpastes, such as ‘advance cleaning’, contain sand-like particles to remove surface stains, but if people brush too hard it can cause teeth wearing.
There is a growing movement of consumer interest in all-natural products.
But Mr Reynolds warned that when it comes to toothpaste, this may not necessarily be a healthy choice.
“You have to be careful with natural toothpastes – particularly with the lesser known brands – because they don’t contain fluoride and you’re taking a risk because it may not be giving you the benefits of reducing tooth decay,” he said.
Mr Reynolds said another increasingly popular specialty toothpaste is charcoal toothpaste.
“A number of patients are asking if it works. The reality is charcoal toothpaste has a very limited effect,” he said.
“If your teeth are stained – for example, from smoking or drinking too much coffee – the idea is that the charcoal toothpaste helps absorb the stain. What concerns me about this product is that it doesn’t have fluoride.
“The improvement isn’t much and instead you put yourself at risk of oral diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease.”
Mr Nguyen said it concerned him that some children use natural toothpaste because it is marketed as “tasting better” but is missing fluoride.
“The Australian recommendation is for children under six years old to use children’s toothpaste because it has a lower concentration of fluoride,” he said.
“It is also important to start using toothpaste on your child’s teeth from 18 months old as they are exposed to more processed foods.”