Does toothpaste expire? How exactly does it work? For a product that millions of Americans use every day, most people know little about what it contains and how the ingredients work together to help you maintain good oral hygiene.

In this article, we’ll talk about toothpaste in depth. First, we’ll talk about how toothpaste works, including the functions of popular ingredients. Next, we’ll get into the subject of expiration, and we’ll let you know how to choose a toothpaste that works best for you.

What Does Your Toothpaste Do?

As we all know, toothpaste is a paste that is applied to the bristles of a toothbrush, or on toothbrush-like instruments such as dental flossing tape. Its function is to help maintain oral hygiene, remove plaque and prevent gingivitis.

The individual ingredients of toothpastes have different functions and are designed to provide the product with specific benefits. For example, some toothpaste brands may feature marketing that touts their ability to whiten teeth, remove stains, or get rid of plaque.

The Ingredients in Toothpaste

No matter what kind of toothpaste you use, it is bound to contain some ingredients common to most toothpaste formulations on the market. Some of the more popular ones include:

Fluoride. Helps remineralize teeth, making them more resistant to acids that break down enamel and cause cavities

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). A foaming agent, emulsifier and surfactant that is used to give toothpaste the right consistency. It helps distribute the toothpaste in your mouth and penetrate hard-to-reach spaces.

Abrasives, such as calcium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate or hydrated silica. These ingredients scrub off hard particles like food debris, and sticky biofilms like plaque.

Glycerin. Prevents bacteria from growing inside your toothpaste when you aren’t using it. It also helps prevent the paste from drying out, and adds a slightly sweet flavor to toothpaste.

In addition, toothpastes can contain flavoring agents, antibacterial agents, and other components. But do these combinations of ingredients go bad or expire?

Does Toothpaste Expire?

So, does toothpaste expire? Expiration generally means that a product is no longer safe for use. We usually associate expiration dates with edible products, which makes sense: certain products, such as meat or dairy, may be unsafe to consume past their expiration or “use by” dates.

Toothpaste is not an edible product, and as such it does not have a use-by date. However, the ADA does set a shelf life on toothpaste, commonly at three years from the date of manufacture. Companies that make toothpaste often sell their products with a marketing label saying “Use within 3 years.” This simply means that the company wants customers to use their products before they expire and is in no way related to safety or efficacy.

If you leave it sitting on your bathroom counter for a long time, your toothpaste just may not be cut out for the job. The ingredients contained in toothpaste can break down over time, thus reducing the paste’s effectiveness. The pH level also changes slightly as time goes by, and many toothpaste products only function correctly at a specific pH level.

If a product loses its potency or starts to change color, it is best to throw it away and buy a new one.

Interested in learning more about toothpaste and other oral hygiene products? AT Dental Care is your friendly expert dental care in San Jose, CA. We’re passionate about educating dental patients about good oral care practices. Get in touch with us at (408) 579-9931.