Last updated on Nov 19, 2019

The Best Toothpastes

Fluoride to stop cavities, plus optional extras ​
We recommend products and services based on unbiased research from our editorial team. We may receive compensation if you click on a link. Read More.

related highlight icon

5 experts interviewed

related highlight icon

18 toothpastes tested

related highlight icon

4 top picks

The Best Toothpastes

The best toothpaste should contain fluoride to fight cavities — other ingredients depend on your teeth. After speaking with dentists about common oral hygiene issues, digging into existing research, and brushing our teeth until they gleamed, we found top picks for four toothpaste categories: general purpose, whitening, sensitive, and natural.

Analysis paralysis? Subscribe to our newsletter.

The 4 Best Toothpastes

    The Best Toothpastes: Summed Up

    Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste
    Sensodyne Pronamel Toothpaste
    Tom’s of Maine Natural Simply White Fluoride Toothpaste
    The Natural Dentist All In One SLS FREE Aloe Toothpaste
    Best General Use Toothpaste
    Best Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth
    Best Whitening Toothpaste
    Best Natural Toothpaste
    Price
    About $6 for a 4.6-ounce tube
    About $8 for a 4-ounce tube
    About $8.50 for a 4.7-ounce tube
    About $6 for a 5-ounce tube
    Get or Paste?
    Gel
    Both
    Gel
    Paste
    Contains SLS?
    RDA
    150
    34
    93
    76
    Fluoride form
    Stannous
    Sodium
    Sodium
    Sodium
    Foam level
    Medium
    Low
    Medium
    Low

    Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste, Clean Mint

    Best General Toothpaste
    Crest

    Crest Pro-Health Whitening Power Toothpaste

    Pros

    Comprehensive cleaner
    Whitens and prevents sensitivity
    Pleasant taste

    Cons

    Slightly gritty texture
    Gel tends to drip from cap

    Why we chose it

    Comprehensive cleaner

    If you want a toothpaste that truly does it all, Crest Pro-Health is the most genuinely multi-purpose product we found. We were initially skeptical of its claim to prevent tooth decay, gingivitis, plaque, bad breath and sensitivity — all while whitening your teeth. But it received the ADA Seal of Acceptance in all six areas, which means it’s got research to back it up. Its efficacy is partly explained by the product’s use of stannous fluoride rather than sodium fluoride. Both types protect equally against cavities, but stannous also has antibacterial properties, which allows Crest Pro-Health to fight gingivitis and plaque — which are caused by bacteria building up in your mouth.

    Whitens and prevents sensitivity

    Stannous fluoride earned a bad reputation when it was first introduced due to the fact that it caused temporary staining (think white blotches) on the teeth of a handful of users. But Crest introduced a new stabilized stannous fluoride in 2005, and added a whitening agent called sodium hexametaphosphate. Combined, these two ingredients result in a toothpaste with the extra antibacterial benefits of stannous fluoride, but without the risk of staining.

    Pleasant taste

    We ran our tests with Crest’s Clean Mint formulation, a spearmint that was middle-of-the-road: not too strong, not too mild. “Great flavor,” one tester reported. In theory, stannous fluoride doesn’t taste as good as sodium fluoride. But we couldn’t detect any taste difference between Crest Pro-Health and products containing sodium fluoride. In fact, we found Arm & Hammer Dental Care Advance Cleaning Daily Fluoride Toothpaste with Baking Soda more bitter than Crest Pro-Health.

    Points to consider

    Slightly gritty texture

    We were less enthusiastic about the slight grittiness of Crest Pro-Health. Crest’s website calls the particles in their toothpaste “ActivClean crystals,” but you’ll see them on the ingredient list under “sodium hexametaphosphate.” These serve as an anti-staining and tartar prevention ingredient, but if you prefer a smoother brushing experience, you might want to check out one of our other picks.

    Gel tends to drip from cap

    Another small quibble we had with Crest Pro-Health was the way it tended to drip out when we opened the cap: a combination of the gel’s softness and the tube’s “flip-cap” dispenser. While it’s definitely not a dealbreaker in an otherwise all-star product, we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t a little annoying.

    Sensodyne ProNamel Toothpaste, Fresh Breath

    Best Sensitive Toothpaste
    Sensodyne

    Sensodyne Pronamel Toothpaste

    Pros

    Gentle yet effective
    No sodium lauryl sulfate
    Least abrasive toothpaste we tested

    Cons

    Not very foamy
    Somewhat pricey

    Why we chose it

    Gentle yet effective

    If you have sensitive teeth and gums and aren’t afraid of bold flavor, we highly recommend Sensodyne’s ProNamel Fresh Breath toothpaste. Like most sensitivity toothpastes, it contains 5% potassium nitrate, a chemical compound that protects and desensitizes nerve fibers in the mouth. If you usually experience discomfort while brushing, or when eating hot or cold foods, ProNamel will bring temporary relief. It also has a strong peppermint flavor that left our mouths feeling fresh.

    No sodium lauryl sulfate

    As an added precaution, Sensodyne ProNamel is also free of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). For most people, SLS merely serves to create foam as you brush, but it can sometimes cause canker sores. Skipping this ingredient ensures that Sensodyne ProNamel is as gentle as possible on your mouth.

    Least abrasive toothpaste we tested

    Sensitive toothpastes are typically less abrasive than other toothpastes, which makes sense: using a lot of grit on sensitive teeth is like rubbing sand into an open wound. Ouch. And there’s actually a technical way to measure a toothpaste’s grittiness: Relative Dentin Abrasivity, or RDA. The ADA says that anything with an RDA of less than 250 won’t damage your teeth. But for sensitive teeth, most dental experts recommend an RDA under 100. ProNamel’s RDA is 34, one of the lowest we found.

    Points to consider

    Not very foamy

    The fact that ProNamel is SLS-free does come with a tradeoff: it’s less frothy than standard options like Colgate Cavity Protection. Testers still noted bubbles as they brushed, just not as many.

    Somewhat pricey

    ProNamel is a little pricier than many of our contenders, with a 4-ounce tube retailing for about $8. Colgate Prevent & Repair, by comparison, comes in a 6-ounce tube for $4.

    Tom’s of Maine Simply White Natural Fluoride Toothpaste, Sweet Mint

    Best Whitening Toothpaste
    Tom’s of Maine

    Tom’s of Maine Simply White Natural Fluoride Toothpaste Sweet Mint

    Pros

    Gentle whitening
    No artificial dyes or flavors
    Smooth texture

    Cons

    Limited whitening power
    Very mild mint flavor

    Why we chose it

    Gentle whitening

    Tom’s of Maine doesn’t have any harsh bleaching chemicals, instead using hydrated silica to give teeth a gentle scrubbing. (It has also earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance, indicating that it is effective at both preventing tooth decay and making teeth appear whiter.) Hydrated silica is the first ingredient on the list after fluoride, unlike runner-up Crest Pro-Health Extra Whitening Power Toothpaste, which features hydrated silica slightly lower down.

    No artificial dyes or flavors

    Tom’s boasts a refreshingly short ingredient list, lacking both artificial dyes and flavors (though it does contain SLS). We were a little confused by the packaging though, which features a vanilla flower despite no discernible vanilla in the product.

    Smooth texture

    Considering that all whitening toothpastes work by scrubbing your enamel with abrasives, we were pleasantly surprised by the smooth, grit-free consistency of Tom’s. It edged out runner-up Crest Pro-Health Extra Whitening Power Toothpaste by a hair: Crest works similarly, but was more polarizing among testers thanks to an extremely gritty texture.

    Points to consider

    Limited whitening power

    This isn’t really an issue with Tom’s so much as a feature of all whitening toothpastes: they only do so much. They can remove surface-level stains but won’t help much if you’re worried about general yellowing. With that caveat in mind, Tom’s is one of the only whitening toothpastes to have had its claims vetted by the ADA.

    Very mild mint flavor

    This isn’t a drawback for everyone, but if you prefer a strong mint flavor, Tom’s may leave you wanting. Testers did like the mild froth produced by brushing, and while some noted a very faint bitterness they reported “it wasn’t bad.”

    The Natural Dentist All In One Toothpaste, Peppermint Twist

    Best Natural Toothpaste
    The Natural Dentist

    The Natural Dentist All In One SLS FREE Aloe Toothpaste

    Pros

    Full-strength cavity protections
    SLS-free
    No artificial dyes or sweeteners

    Cons

    Not ADA-approved
    Unusual flavor

    Why we chose it

    Full-strength cavity protection

    The term “natural” isn’t regulated by the FDA, so we developed our own criteria, starting with a strict fluoride requirement to ensure the full benefits of cavity protection. The Natural Dentist delivers on this score, and also contains natural ingredients like aloe leaf juice and echinacea extract, which have anti-inflammatory properties. We couldn’t find any research about the benefits of these ingredients in toothpaste specifically, but they certainly don’t hurt.

    SLS-free

    Like Sensodyne ProNamel, The Natural Dentist is free of sodium lauryl sulfate (which can cause canker sores), so it’s sure to be gentle on your mouth.

    No artificial dyes or sweeteners

    The only coloring agent in this toothpaste is titanium dioxide, a naturally occurring pigment used to give the paste its white color (a pleasant change from the “blue 1” and “red 30” of brands like Aquafresh). It’s also free of artificial sweeteners, flavored instead with a combination of sorbitol and xylitol — naturally occurring sugar alcohols — plus natural flavor.

    Points to consider

    Not ADA-approved

    The Natural Dentist does not carry the ADA seal of acceptance, which isn’t a dealbreaker for us for reasons we mentioned up top (all anti-cavity toothpastes require FDA approval before hitting the shelves). Still, if it makes you more comfortable to know that your toothpaste has been “medically vetted,” you may want to opt for a different brand.

    Unusual flavor

    Testers did find the flavor unusual. It’s described as “Peppermint Twist,” but we were met with a strong burst of anise when we began to brush and could barely detect any peppermint at all. The flavor also faded quickly, though our mouths ultimately felt fresh, with one tester noting that her “tongue felt cleaner” than with any of the other toothpastes she’d tested. The Natural Dentist had no discernible aftertaste, unlike runner-up Biotene, which had a faint bitter flavor that lingered.

    How We Chose the Best Toothpaste

    Cavity protection

    To prevent cavities, every single dental expert we spoke with told us that fluoride was the one must-have. Fluoride works by strengthening your tooth enamel (the outside layer of the tooth) so it can resist bacteria. It also remineralizes, patching up microscopic holes in your enamel that are caused by bacteria from food. And there’s an overwhelming amount of clinical evidence that it reduces both cavities and gum disease. Fluoride controversy does exist, but much of it centers around adding fluoride to our water supply, a practice begun in the 1940s. Too much fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, a non-fatal condition that causes discoloration of the teeth. But unless you’re allergic, or eating toothpaste by the tube, you’re unlikely to have issues.

    Mouth health

    Having a healthy mouth isn’t the same as eradicating it of all bacteria. Triclosan is an anti-gingivitis ingredient that is effective, but comes with baggage. In 2017, it was banned by the FDA from antiseptic hand and body washes because of the concern that long-term use could pose risks like bacterial resistance and damage to the thyroid. Turns out, it’s also worrisome to many dental pros. “Triclosan, or any antibacterial ingredient, can negatively affect the balance of your mouth and gut bacteria,” says Dr. Louis Siegelman, a clinical assistant professor at NYU College of Dentistry. “I recommend avoiding daily use without any significant benefit or purpose. It is important to respect the gastrointestinal biome and to use careful consideration with any germ-killing ingredients. They can disrupt both good and bad bacteria causing an imbalance of delicate flora.”

    ADA Accepted

    You’ve probably seen the little logo on the side of your toothpaste that says “ADA Accepted.” This seal is held by toothpastes that have undergone a voluntary vetting process from the American Dental Association, which verifies that the toothpaste is safe for use and will live up to its marketing claims. We didn’t consider the seal an “absolute must-have” because all anti-cavity toothpastes are already required to meet FDA standards for safety and efficacy. Still, if you’re evaluating two otherwise-equal options, consider the ADA seal a tiebreaker. “To me, the ADA seal of acceptance is important in helping patients navigate the many dental products currently available,” says Dr. Samantha Sacchetti of Village Dental in Kenilworth, IL.

    Brushing experience

    After checking all the boxes for safety and effectiveness, one big question remained: how does it feel to actually brush with this toothpaste? We scrubbed using each of our 18 finalists for two minutes per ADA guidelines, clearing our palates in between with a cup of coffee or some crackers. We paid close attention to taste, feel, foam, and how clean our mouths felt afterwards. We also noted the design of each tube and how conveniently it dispensed its toothpaste, a small detail that’s nevertheless important in a twice-daily routine.

    Guide to Toothpastes

    How to find the right toothpaste for you

    Fluoride first

    Most importantly, make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride to protect against cavities. It’s effective in any of its three forms: sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride, or sodium monofluorophosphate. Beyond that, avoiding triclosan (found in Colgate Total and a few other toothpastes) makes sense because it can disrupt your body’s bacterial balance and lead to tooth sensitivity. “I recommend using a basic fluoride toothpaste that does not have all the additives, whitening, and anti-tartar ingredients, especially triclosan,” says cosmetic dentist Dr. Timothy Chase of Smiles.NY in Manhattan.

    Talk to your dentist

    Registered Dental Hygienist Anastasia Turchetta recommends relying on your dentist or hygienist to steer you toward the right pick. “I look at the current state of the patient’s oral health,” she says. “Are they at a high, moderate or low caries risk? Is their enamel healthy, with zero white spots (demineralization) or does it show signs of erosion? Are their gums sensitive? Do they have dry mouth? Do they have bad breath?”

    Prioritize your extras

    While we loved the one-stop-shop of Crest Pro-Health, if you have a specific issue — say, very sensitive teeth, or a desire for natural ingredients — you’re probably better off with a toothpaste that prioritizes that. We grouped toothpastes into four main categories (general use, sensitivity, whitening, and natural) to acknowledge the precedence they give to your brushing needs.

    Toothpastes FAQ

    More Health & Fitness Reviews

    Looking for other ways to keep yourself in ship-shape? Check out some of our other health and fitness product reviews:

    About the Authors

    The Reviews.com staff is dedicated to providing you with all the deep-dive details. Our writers, researchers, and editors came together from Charlotte, Seattle, San Juan, Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, San Diego, and Chicago to put this review together.