When you think about that gallon of milk in the fridge, you keep a close eye on the expiration date. No one wants to take a drink of spoiled milk. But what about your toothpaste? Does your toothpaste expire? Is using expired toothpaste dangerous to your teeth or your health?
The truth is toothpaste does expire, but chances are if you follow a good oral hygiene routine, you are unlikely to get stuck with expired toothpaste – unless, of course, Costco has a big sale, and you stock up!
At New Leaf Rohnert Park, we understand the importance of a good oral hygiene routine, and that starts with good toothpaste. To better understand toothpaste and why it expires, let’s take a closer look.
What ingredients are in toothpaste?
Toothpaste is made with a combination of active and inactive ingredients. The active ingredients help keep your teeth clean and prevent tooth decay and gum disease, while the inactive ingredients help create a toothpaste with a pleasant taste and texture. While every brand of toothpaste differs, some common ingredients found in toothpaste include:
- Fluoride is the main active ingredient that helps fight decay and protect your teeth from cavity development. Fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen your tooth enamel and helps prevent it from wearing down.
- Desensitizers are active ingredients that help soothe teeth sensitive to things like hot and cold. Not every toothpaste contains these ingredients.
- Abrasives: While not technically an active ingredient as they do not directly treat the teeth, abrasives are the active agent necessary to remove stains, plaque, and tartar from your teeth every time you brush. Abrasives can include calcium carbonate, hydrated aluminum oxides, and dehydrated silica gels. These abrasives help clean and polish your teeth’ surface without damaging the tooth surface.
- Flavoring: Anything from mint to cinnamon to fruit-flavored sweeteners, such as saccharin and sorbitol, help give your toothpaste the flavor you love so much.
- Humectants: Glycol and glycerol are agents that help create the smooth texture of toothpaste and help reduce the loss of moisture that can cause your toothpaste to dry up.
- Detergents: Like your dish soap that makes bubbles, detergent added to your toothpaste is what creates the foam that occurs when you brush your teeth. The detergent most commonly used is sodium lauryl sulfate.
- Whiteners: Whiteners are not always present in toothpaste, but those that offer tooth whitening will likely contain peroxide.
What is the shelf life of toothpaste?
When it comes to the shelf life of toothpaste, the regulating factor is the active ingredients. Fluoride can degrade with time, making it less effective in preventing dental decay and gum disease. When a toothpaste contains these active ingredients, the shelf life is two years from the date of manufacture. With toothpaste without fluoride, the shelf life may be longer. Every toothpaste should have an expiration date printed on the package and tube.
Is it bad to use expired toothpaste?
Using expired toothpaste is not going to make you sick or cause damage to your teeth. However, it will also not clean your teeth as effectively as it should. Is it okay to use expired toothpaste in a pinch? Most definitely. But don’t be surprised if it doesn’t taste as good, looks a little separated, or doesn’t leave your teeth feeling as clean.
Why does toothpaste go bad?
Now, just because your toothpaste has a good expiration date, that doesn’t always mean your toothpaste is still good. Many different factors can affect your toothpaste, even before opening the tube. Contributing factors that can make good toothpaste go bad can include:
- Improperly capped toothpaste: If you don’t put a cap on your toothpaste after use, bacteria can enter the toothpaste and degrade the toothpaste.
- Exposure to extreme temperatures: The ingredients can degrade if your toothpaste is exposed to extreme heat or cold.
- Bacterial transfer: Bacteria can spread from your toothbrush to your toothpaste through direct contact. Avoid touching your toothbrush to the toothpaste tube.
- Ingredient separation: Over time, ingredients in the toothpaste can separate. This can affect taste, texture, and effectiveness.
Contamination: If you leave opened toothpaste in the same cabinet as something else with scent, the flavor of your toothpaste may be affected.
How can you keep your toothpaste fresh?
When you open a new tube of toothpaste, there are some things to do that help to ensure your toothpaste stays fresh as long as possible. These tips include:
- Store toothpaste in a cool, dark place with a consistent temperature
- Do not touch the opening of the toothpaste with your fingers
- Do not touch the opening of the toothpaste to your toothbrush
- Replace the cap immediately after every use
- If using a tube toothpaste, use a tube flattener to remove the air from the tube
The right toothpaste can make all the difference.
A quality toothpaste within its expiration date and stored correctly is a powerful tool in your oral hygiene arsenal. At New Leaf Rohnert Park, we are committed to helping you achieve optional oral health and a beautiful smile through oral hygiene education, routine dental exams, and regular dental cleanings. If you have any other questions about your oral health or which toothpaste might be best for you, our caring team is here to help. Visit us online today or call the office at (707) 586-1549 to schedule an appointment.