/ Health, Shopping

How do you choose your toothpaste?

Choosing toothpaste should be one of life’s simpler decisions. But with more than a hundred varieties on sale promising everything from cavity prevention to teeth whitening, how do you decide which is best?

And is it better to splash out on a more expensive brand or will a cheaper one do the job just as well?

Our new research takes a look at the science behind the claims, and whether you can really trust them.

I’ve always been sceptical about those claims you see on toothpaste packaging. Enamel protection? Relief for sensitive teeth? Really? Instead I tend to look for discounts and offers when choosing which one to buy.

Usually I stick to chemist or supermarket own brands to get the best price, and if they proffer the words ‘teeth whitening’ or ‘total’ – well that’s a bonus.

I use an electric toothbrush at home and I like to think that thorough brushing, coupled with regular visits to the dentist, will give me all the protection I need.

Can you trust teeth whitening and other claims?

How important are those toothpaste claims to you? Well, 54% of you told us you opt for a sensitive toothpaste, with 46% looking for ‘complete’ or ‘total’ claims, and 36% buying teeth whitening toothpastes.

Of the claims we looked at, fluoride is one key ingredient that science seems to support. There’s significant evidence to prove that it protects from decay and prevents against acid erosion.

But it also matters how much of it there is in your toothpaste. You can look on the pack for one that contains more than 1,450 parts per million of fluoride (ppmf) to make sure you’re getting a good level of protection.

There is also some evidence to suggest that ingredients for reducing sensitivity can help. But experts told us that different things will work for different people, so you might have to try a few to find what works for you.

And teeth whitening claims? Our experts compared two toothpastes that claim to give whiter teeth in a week, but saw no evidence to support the claims. There’s limited evidence to buy a whitening toothpaste instead of a standard fluoride one, and they won’t be as effective as teeth whitening (bleaching) or a clean by your dentist.

So how do you decide which toothpaste to choose? Do you look for a certain claim or favour a brand? Or like me, do you simply go for the cheapest on offer?


The BDA site has some informative literature. One investigation showed that the incidence of dental caries is 23% less with 1000-1200 ppm fluoride, 29% with 1450-1500 and 36% for 2400-2800. A similar effect with gels and rinses.

A TV programme recently went to Scandinavia where there is some craze for sucking tablets containing xylitol derived from silver birch to prevent tooth decay. No evidence of any real benefit apparently.

Another TV investigation looked at “tooth whitening” kits on general sale for up to £50. None worked, despite the claims, partly because the active ingredient (hydrogen peroxide) is limited by EU law to levels that are ineffective. So a bit of a scam?

All in all, exotic toothpastes seem to play on our ignorance. We buy Colgate when it is in offer. I just got out a magnifying glass to read the ingredients and was heartened to see fluoride 1450 ppm. Plus a 6 monthly visit to the hygienist for a check, scale and polish.

It would be interesting if a dental expert could tell us whether there is really any difference between toothpastes, wouldn’t it?


Hi Malcom,

It certainly would be interesting – and luckily that’s exactly what we’ve done!

Head to http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/shopping-grooming-and-wellbeing/guides/choosing-the-best-toothpaste/ to see what the experts we spoke to had to say about toothpaste claims and whether you’ll get more for your money with the pricier brands.


For years I have avoided toothpaste containing triclosan. It’s good to learn from the Which? report that it has been removed from some toothpastes.

Veronica says:
3 August 2015

Me too. After last Which? report I changed to Tesco Freshmint with 1450ppm Fluoride and no triclosan. Only costs around 50p for100ml.

Veronica says:
21 August 2015

Tesco now have a 75ml tube with EXACTLY the same ingredients for 25p.


Thanks Amy, that is lucky! A quick squint at the review seems to suggest to me – just buy toothpaste with fluoride at 1450ppm. Otherwise you’re being parted from your hard-earned cash for little benefit – unless you have sensitive teeth. Would that be fair?


Hi Malcom,

What you’re saying about flouride is correct, and certainly we thought the scientific evidence to support claims made by sensitive toothpastes was substantial.

However, we did find varying degrees of credibility in the claims made by other types of toothpaste too – and interestingly, we found that different active ingredients were likely to affect people in different ways.

So that’s to say that what works for one person, may not work for another.

Hope you enjoyed the article 🙂


I usually just look for the lowest price on standard toothpaste. Toothpastes with loads of special claims or ingredients seem to cost several times the price of regular types; I suspect they are very poor value, and probably not particularly effective on their special claims, although no doubt satisfactory on their basic cleansing and hygiene properties. I’m not sure why, but I have never used a supermarket own label toothpaste, and I stopped using Boots own-label a few years ago when they started raising the dilution rate without lowering the price. Major brands on discount appear to give satisfactory performance at an economical price.

Even buying standard toothpaste, the range of pack sizes and price levels means you have to compare prices quite carefully [including special offers and multi-buys] in order to avoid being diddled. The retailers are not exactly whiter than white on this.


The thing that I find that you have to look out for when buying the toothpaste normally used in this household is that the discount stores sell a 125 ml tube for about 99p whereas the local chemist and at least one supermarket sell the 100 ml tube for the same price. Beware!


I buy toothpaste when there is a genuine special offer. Apart from avoiding varieties with triclosan, I don’t pay much attention to brands or marketing hype.

Before I switched to an electric toothbrush I learned that careful brushing meant that I could avoid the build-up of scale and the need for the dentist to scrape and pick. If I am at home I will brush my teeth four times a day but I don’t use toothpaste more than twice because it is abrasive.


M&S Colgate cavity protection – no mention of triclosan – 95p for 75 ml tube. Seems reasonable.


Tried it. 😀


That’s the toothpaste I’m using at present, Malcolm. As you say, it’s cheap. Some people would avoid it because it contains limonene.