Essay

Toothpaste is a scam

Given that every toothpaste contains whitening ingredients now, why aren’t we all walking around with teeth that are a perfect #ffffff? (That’s the HTML code for the whitest white, for the nongeeks in the audience.) That’s right: because it’s a scam.

Crest Tooth Paste, 1960

Photo: Allen Sandquist Collection

Anytime a product category requires an entire aisle at Walgreen’s, with many competing brands and even products within one brand, each promising to be the Best Evar!!!!!!! – that is, when something is marketed to the hilt, that’s your clue that you probably don’t need it.

Look, I know that studies say that the fluoride in toothpaste leads to fewer cavities. But when I was a kid in braces, I brushed with baking soda most of the time. It tasted terrible, but it made my metal mouth gleam like nobody’s business. And I saw no uptick in the number of cavities I got.

I’ll bet I could brush dry and still reap brushing’s benefits – but for one. The reason I still use toothpaste, even though it’s a scam, because it makes my mouth feel and taste minty fresh. I like that.

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14 thoughts on “Toothpaste is a scam

  1. N.S. Palmer says:

    Great minds think alike, again. I have that same conversation with my dentist every six months.

    As for minty freshness, I still don’t use toothpaste. Gargling with coffee is all the minty freshness I need. :-)

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  2. “Flouristan” sounds like a country.

    Not sure I’ll go as far as to agree it’s unnecessary, but the abundance of brands and marketing you point out does make me think any one is as good as another. And the physical abrasion of brushing probably does most of the job…

    This is thought provoking Jim! Keep challenging the conventional “wisdom”!

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    • Didn’t you know that in the early days, the fluoride in toothpaste came from the People’s Republic of Fluoristan?

      Ok, it really didn’t. That was just a brand name for stannous fluoride. Toothpastes use a different form of fluoride today.

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  3. Michael says:

    Yep, even dentists know that brushing is what cleans the teeth. IF someone is still on well water, maybe the fluoride would be of benefit. I still use it for the minty freshness but buy the cheapest there is.

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