Mike the Mad Biologist

A Question About Toothpaste

A couple of nights ago, I bought some toothpaste. At the risk of veering off into “in my day, we used sandpaper. And we liked it!” territory, there’s a ridiculous variety of toothpaste.

If you just consider Crest, there’s Cavity Prevention, Multicare Whitening, Multicare Whitening, and Half-Caff Decaff Mocha with a Twist of Lemon. OK, the last one isn’t real, but it seems silly.

Why? Because when I look at the active ingredients, all of these different toothpastes have stannous flouride as the only active ingredient–and usually at the same amount (w/v%). So how are all of these toothpastes different? I didn’t see anything else in the inactive ingredients that was different (although maybe I missed something).

Anybody know?

Comments

  1. #1 Mim Song
    April 5, 2009

    Are you kidding? It’s marketing, man. They’re getting us to buy more than one kind (and thus more than one tube) per household. Look at the explosion of cold remedies, shampoos, skin lotions — all with more or less the same ingredients, all marketed to different segments in the same household. People sit around tables for hours figuring this stuff up. They know what they’re doing; shut up and shop.

  2. #2 Julie Stahlhut
    April 5, 2009

    I know that Colgate has triclosan in it, and seem to remember that most store brands do as well. The triclosan-free options that I know of are Crest and Tom’s of Maine. Since I can’t stand the taste of Tom’s, I buy Crest. I’ve seen rumors on the net that at least some Crest products contain triclosan, but don’t see it on the ingredients list of the type that I buy.

  3. #3 MRW
    April 5, 2009

    Julie – Trichlosan is in the anti-tartar toothpastes.

    Mike – There’s probably not enough difference to justify the number of types, but when ~99% of the toothpaste is “inactive,” there’s plenty to fool around with. The cleaning is mostly done by “inactive” ingredients, after all. Fluoride protects teeth, it doesn’t clean them.

  4. #4 Jim Thomerson
    April 5, 2009

    I once needed a fungicide. Looked at the same brand, one for athelets foot, the other for jock itch. The tube size and contents were exactly the same. One was $2.00 more than the other. I bought the cheaper one, whichever it was.

  5. #5 Comrade PhysioProf
    April 5, 2009

    My periodontist tells me to not bother using toothpaste, to brush dry, and to use Listerine to swish around with.

  6. #6 Troublesome Frog
    April 5, 2009

    Once again, Bill Hicks has us covered:

    To my delight, I find that there is a different warning on each pack of cigarettes. Mine says: “Warning: Smoking can cause fetal damage or premature birth.” Fuck it – I’ve found my brand! “Yeah, give me a carton of Low Birth Weights.” Just don’t get the ones that say lung cancer, you know? Shop around, find a disease you can live with. “What are you smoking, Dave?” “Throat Polyps. Want one?” “No thanks, I’ll stick with my Yellow Fingernails.”

  7. #7 Kim
    April 5, 2009

    I don’t even look at the labels anymore, I just buy what tastes the best to me (Arm & Hammer). I figure flossing is probably the important part, anyway.

  8. #8 DuWayne
    April 6, 2009

    This is kind of a big problem for me, because I tend to be rather obsessive about labels. I’ve actually spent better than twenty minutes in front of the fucking toothpaste, trying to decide. I just use baking soda now, and swish with Act Total Care – because it contains cetylpyridium chloride, listed as inactive.

    I’m just not allowed to go grocery shopping, because it can take me hours to get about fifty dollars worth of food.

    I’m hoping the meds will make a difference, because it’s almost time to buy shampoo again…

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