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This article was medically reviewed by André V. Ritter, DDS, MBA, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at the NYU College of Dentistry.
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The best toothpaste does more than just leave your mouth feeling fresh — its active ingredients help clean each tooth, eliminating plaque and bacteria, and preventing gingivitis, cavities, and helping to prevent tooth decay.
It also has the power to whiten teeth, freshen breath, and decrease tooth sensitivity if you want. Moreover, it can have ingredients that help remineralize the tooth surface, restore the minerals lost due to cavity attacks, and help offset staining and erosion, Joseph Field, DDS, a dentist in Los Altos, CA, told Insider.
But some toothpaste brands are safer than others, our experts say, and people may have different needs depending on issues they have with their teeth. If you're looking for the best toothpaste for bad breath, sensitive teeth, or to score a whiter smile, I've compiled the five best I've tested below. You'll also find answers to a few FAQs and tips on how to pick out a toothpaste that's best for you, at the end of this guide.
Find out more about how Insider Reviews tests and reviews health products.
Here are the best toothpaste
Best overall: Colgate Renewal, $6.96 on Amazon
Colgate Renewal not only cleans but also calms inflamed gums and has the freshest, cleanest, and mintiest feel of all the toothpaste I tested.
Best for kids: Tom's of Maine Strawberry Toothpaste, $4.99 on Amazon
Tom's of Maine Silly Strawberry Toothpaste will clean and care for your kids' teeth with the ADA Seal of Approval, and it tastes like candy without any artificial ingredients.
Best for sensitive teeth: Sensodyne Rapid Relief, $15.98 on Amazon
Sensodyne Rapid Relief helps reduce sensitivity within 60 seconds while still cleaning teeth and leaving you with fresh breath.
Best natural: Klen natural mint toothpaste, $16 on Klen
Klen's Natural Mint is a fluoride-free toothpaste with a gentle, clean taste and an ingredient list our dentists approve of.
Best whitening: Colgate Total Whitening, $6 on Amazon
Colgate Total SF Whitening Gel lifts surface stains, fights gum disease and cavities, and doesn't leave your teeth or gums feeling sensitive like other whitening toothpaste.
Best toothpaste overall
Colgate Renewal not only cleans but also calms inflamed gums, and it had the freshest, clean, minty feel of all the toothpastes I tested.
Pros: May help restore gum health, sleek packaging, great aftertaste, clean feeling, vegan, contains fluoride
Cons: Mint intensity is stronger than some alternatives
Colgate is a long-trusted brand that comes highly recommended by our experts. Among the toothpastes I tested, the enamel-fortifying Colgate Renewal proved to be the most well-rounded workhouse. It's our top pick overall, as well as for a handful of specific categories, including the best toothpaste for bad breath, the best toothpaste for gums, and the best fluoride toothpaste, as the active ingredient is stannous fluoride.
Colgate Renewal works to fight cavities, gingivitis, and tooth sensitivity all in one. The "renewal" part of its name comes from the toothpaste's ability to calm gingivitis-related issues like gum bleeding, which in turn may help reverse early gum damage before it gets too bad, Phil Devore, DDS, restorative, cosmetic, and implant dentist at Image Dental in Las Vegas tells Insider.
Even if you don't have gingivitis build-up, I liked Colgate Renewal the most among those I tested simply for its fresh, clean feel and minty aftertaste, leaving your mouth feeling cleaner than the others I tried.
But be prepared: This toothpaste taste packs a fresh punch, as it's the most "in your face" mint flavor of all in our test group. If you don't like Altoid strength, this isn't for you.
The packaging is pretty and looks much sleeker on your counter than the gaudy tubes of yesteryear. The clear top works as a base so the tube can stand vertically and is big enough to easily screw on and off without losing it.
Dr. Devore adds that this is a great vegan toothpaste, too, since it doesn't contain animal-based glycerin and helps with gingivitis and inflammation.
Best kids toothpaste
Tom's of Maine Silly Strawberry Toothpaste will clean and care for your kids teeth with the ADA Seal of Approval, and it tastes like candy without any artificial ingredients.
Pros: Fun taste, easy to use bottle, more exciting for kids to use than standard mint, contains fluoride, natural ingredients, ADA Seal of Approval
My three sons, ages 6,5, and 3, rarely get excited about brushing their teeth. But I left this product out for them to try without any fanfare and observed their reactions.
"There are happy strawberries on our toothpaste," one commented. They all started discussing the taste, with one positively stating that it was like candy. That's a pretty solid review from my little friends, who normally fuss about adult toothpastes "burning" their mouths.
What's more, that candy flavor comes from natural ingredients and the formula has the necessary active ingredients to fight plaque. New York Cosmetic Dentist Lana Rozenberg, DDS, likes this pick for the same reason, saying, "This toothpaste contains fluoride but doesn't have any artificial flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives."
Also, while I've found standard adult toothpaste is actually pretty hard for little hands to maneuver, my kids were also able to snap open the Tom's Silly Strawberry lid themselves and squeeze the paste onto their own toothbrushes without making a mess — for once.
Multiple other experts noted this as one of the best kids toothpastes, including Michaela Tozzi, DMD, cosmetic dentist in Henderson, NV who says she loves Tom's of Maine for kids and Brian Luong, DMD, a dentist in Santa Ana, CA who recommends fluoride for children over age two.
Best toothpaste for sensitive teeth
Sensodyne Rapid Relief helps reduce sensitivity within 60 seconds while still cleaning teeth and leaving you with fresh breath.
Pros: Quick relief for sensitive teeth, leaves a clean feel, thicker, not watery
Cons: Flavor isn't quite as good as non-sensitive toothpaste, expensive
Nothing feels worse than when you get tooth pain from drinking something that is too cold, too sweet, or just from living life. "Teeth sensitivity is a result of excessive teeth wear and gum recession which exposes the softer underlying dentine (sensitive area)," Dr. Luong explains.
Toothpaste with desensitizing agents, like potassium nitrate or fluoride, block these areas. Dr. Luong adds that Sensodyne toothpaste is the market leader in this area, and we like that its Rapid Relief toothpaste is one of the faster-acting formulas on the market.
Sensodyne Rapid Relief helps block the sensitivity that causes tooth pain ASAP, in under 60 seconds, and claims to reduce sensitivity significantly within three days (if you brush twice a day). Other products like Sensodyne Repair and Protect don't make as timely of a promise.
Sensitivity toothpastes usually have a slightly different taste since they tend to be thicker, but this is minimal with Sensodyne toothpaste. When I tested, I found it still left my mouth feeling completely clean and particularly had a spritely minty fresh vibe. I also liked the thick tube cap, which let me store the tube vertically on my bathroom counter to take up less room.
Best natural toothpaste
Klēn's Natural Mint is a fluoride free toothpaste with a gentle, clean taste and an ingredient list our dentists approve of.
Pros: Gentler taste, less harsh, natural ingredients, sleek packaging with a screw top that can stand upright, clean teeth feel
Cons: Some may prefer a stronger mint taste to feel clean
For starters, Klēn's Natural Toothpaste in Mint is just plain pretty with its minimal packaging and wide screw top that allows it to stand vertically (always a plus), all of which adds a significant upgrade to your countertop aesthetic.
Klēn's is a natural, fluoride-free toothpaste; the brand doesn't use fluoride, parabens, or sulfate. Dr. Tozzi says, "Klen's Natural Mint Toothpaste is my favorite because it's natural yet effective. It gets the job done without the harsh chemicals."
Klen's natural toothpaste uses Bentonite Clay, a fluoride alternative with antibacterial properties; aloe leaf extract; and tea tree leaf oil instead, which Dr. Tozzi says is "abrasive enough to clean while still being gentle on enamel." Dr. Devore adds that he likes tea tree oil in toothpaste thanks to its antibacterial and antiviral properties.
In addition to cleaning more gently, it also feels way gentler than other toothpaste, leaning more towards a gel than a paste, and swapping strong Altoid-like flavor for a more neutral but clean feeling. This is a toothpaste without fluoride, so it might not be right for everyone.
Best whitening toothpaste
Colgate Total SF Whitening Gel lifts surface stains, fights gum disease and cavities, and doesn't leave your teeth or gums feeling sensitive like other whitening toothpastes.
Pros: Budget-friendly, expert-backed whitening technology, ADA seal of approval approved, which not all whitening toothpastes can say
Cons: Some don't love the taste
Insider Reviews writer Ariana DiValentino tested a handful of leading whitening toothpastes and Colgate Total SF Whitening Gel came out on top. It comes recommended by two dental experts we spoke with if you're looking for a daily boost for whiter teeth because it not only works but also has the ADA seal of acceptance, meaning the national professional organization supports its efficacy and safety.
In addition to lifting light surface stains, this whitening toothpaste has antibacterial properties to help fight gum disease and tooth decay, so it covers the duties any toothpaste should perform. Plus, it's incredibly affordable, especially compared to other at-home and professional whitening products.
While some people experience tooth sensitivity when using teeth whitening products, Colgate Total Whitening contains stannous fluoride, which helps offset that effect. (Although Dr. Field adds that if you have sensitive teeth already, whitening toothpaste could exacerbate it, in which case we recommend trying Crest Pro Health Gum and Sensitivity Gentle Whitening.)
To read more about this product, including its flat flip cap for easier access that stands up on your countertop, check out our full whitening toothpaste review.
What else we considered
What else we recommend
- Crest Gum Detoxify ($7): This option tastes fantastic, and uses cooling activated foam to prevent bacteria from harming the gumline. We didn't include this one because the foam feeling isn't for everyone.
What we don't recommend
- Closys fluoride free ($7): This toothpaste, unfortunately, just doesn't taste very good, which is necessary to stay motivated for consistent use, and is one of the more expensive products we tested per ounce. However, we look forward to testing Closys' mouthwash, which multiple experts recommended.
- Bite Toothpaste Bits ($30 for 4 month supply) These toothpaste bites come in an eco-friendly reusable glass jar, but the thin paste of the actual toothpaste bites didn't compete with traditional paste. However, this option would work well for someone who is tired of tubes of paste or hates thicker toothpaste.
What we're looking forward to testing
- There are rumors that Colgate, which paired with LiquiGlide to improve packaging, might be bringing their Europe-based no-waste toothpaste to the United States in the future. It's attempting to eliminate consumer waste by having to throw out that last bit of toothpaste, which it told CNN is up to 13% of toothpaste per tube. The new packaging would have a slippery coating making it easier to empty.
How I test toothpaste
Our products went through a multi-step testing process to ensure that each item is user-friendly and one of the best potential buys available. Here's how we tested the leading toothpastes:
Taste: If toothpaste tastes terrible, you won't want to use it twice per day. In testing, we liked those that had a clean and fresh taste that got rid of morning breath rather than specific non-mint flavors (except for kids), and leaned towards items that weren't exceptionally strong.
Consistency: We found the most pleasant consistency meant you can easily move the toothpaste around your mouth, accessing each tooth well, without a too-watery or too-thick feeling.
Packaging: For something you use so often, packaging really matters. We considered things like how easy it was to unscrew the top (without losing the cap) and if the tube can sit upright on the counter which takes up less space.
Additives and ingredients: Toothpaste isn't exempt from the culture-wide push to eliminate additives, such as parabens, from products we consume. We looked towards more natural ingredients where appropriate, chatting with our experts about fluoride use as well.
How to pick out a toothpaste
Seek toothpaste for your own oral health goals
When you are shopping for toothpaste, you want to look for ingredients specific to the goals for your own oral health. Sometimes this is obvious like if you're experiencing teeth sensitivity or your teeth are yellowing. But others, like gum recession, demineralization, or a propensity toward cavities, only your dentist may notice.
Choose helpful ingredients
If you're looking for remineralization, Dr. Field says your toothpaste should contain calcium phosphate, which he calls one of the "most effective ingredients" to help strengthen tooth structure.
If your teeth are sensitive, look for desensitizing agents, like potassium, stannous fluoride, and potassium nitrate.
Many people will also want to look for a toothpaste with fluoride in it; however it's not necessarily a "must-have" for everyone, except kids, says Dr. Field (along with a few of our other experts).
We know that fluoride has strong antibacterial and plaque-prevention properties. It's "an effective remineralizing ion," Dr. Field explains, which helps reset the pH balance after we eat and drink so that the acidity doesn't cause our enamel to become demineralized, which can in turn cause cavities.
That being said, nearly 75% of people in the U.S. have fluoride in their water, according to the ADA, so you might already be getting it outside of your toothpaste. That's why we've included fluoride-free toothpaste as well in this guide. The best approach to figuring out if you need toothpaste with or without fluoride is to talk to your local dentist.
Look for the ADA seal of approval
Toothpaste isn't heavily regulated by the FDA like other health products, so it can be a little tricky to confirm the safety of a label. Big brands are generally trustworthy since safety standards reflect upon their reputation.
There are a few seals you can look for more reassurance — namely FDA approval and the American Dental Association seal of approval, which ensures the tube has met the specific requirements set forth by the professional organization. It's also smart to avoid trend-based items that your dentist hasn't necessarily approved, like charcoal which has the potential to damage your enamel and gums.
What should you avoid in toothpaste?
Avoid toothpaste that is too abrasive, which can erode your enamel. Brian Luong, DMD, a dentist in Santa Ana, CA, recommends checking your pick on the RDA (abrasiveness) scale, but the biggest risk of high abrasiveness is in whitening toothpaste. (Check out safe whitening options, here.) He adds on the label, this may look like calcium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, hydrated aluminum oxides, magnesium carbonate, phosphate salts, and silicates.
New York Cosmetic Dentist Lana Rozenberg, DDS, adds that consumers should avoid charcoal toothpaste for now, as the ADA hasn't found it to be safe or effective yet, and it can be harmful to teeth and gums.
What is a desensitizing agent?
A desensitizing agent in toothpaste helps block areas of sensitivity, like where you're experiencing gum recession, explains Dr. Loung. "Desensitizers actually don't numb the gums, but rather they block or create barriers over the sensitive areas on the teeth called the dentin (which have exposed nerves)." They're not only safe, but they can be super helpful if you have sensitive spots. Desensitizing agents on the label look like potassium, stannous fluoride, and potassium nitrate.
Is fluoride toothpaste bad for you?
No, it's not bad for you. In fact, fluoride is very good for your teeth as long as it's not ingested in large quantities. Fluoride has certain benefits for your teeth such as remineralizing, antibacterial properties, and preventing future decay. Joseph Field, DDS, a dentist in Los Altos, CA explains that fluoride helps lower the acidity in our mouth from what we eat and drink, which will otherwise demineralize our enamel which can in turn cause cavities.
That being said, nearly 75% of people in the U.S. have fluoride in their water, according to the ADA, so you might already be getting it outside of your toothpaste. "I am not against fluoride, but I only use it once a day and am a bigger fan of its use in patients that have a high risk for decay and when people don't drink city water that has been treated," Amanda Lewis, DMD, a dentist in Dallas, told Insider.
She adds that too much fluoride can actually cause tooth staining. All our dentists agree that fluoride is a hot topic with a lot of misinformation in all directions. Your best bet is to ask your dentist for personal advice.
Our experts include practicing dentists from around the country, including:
- Dr. Phil Devore, DDS, restorative, cosmetic, and implant dentist at Image Dental in Las Vegas
- Dr. Lana Rozenberg, DDS, New York-based cosmetic dentist
- Dr. Michaela Tozzi, DMD, cosmetic dentist in Henderson, NV
- Dr. Brian Luong, DMD, MBA, MS, a dentist at Santa Ana Orthodontics in California
- Dr. Joseph Field, DDS, DABOI, FAAID, FICOI, FAGD, a dentist at Peninsula Center of Cosmetic Dentistry in Los Altos, CA
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