You’ve run out of toothpaste, but luckily you’ve still got that travel tube from last year’s holiday. Is it ok to use it after all this time, or does toothpaste expire?
While toothpaste does have an expiration date, it means something slightly different than the expiration date on your food. To understand what happens to toothpaste over time, let’s first look at the ingredients.
What’s In Your Toothpaste?
NPS MedicineWise explains that toothpastes typically contain:
- Fluoride to protect against cavities.
- An abrasive to lift stains.
- A foaming detergent to loosen plaque.
- A humectant to prevent drying and hardening.
- A binding agent to hold the ingredients together.
- Flavours, colourings and preservatives.
Some therapeutic toothpastes also contain ingredients like potassium nitrate for sensitive teeth, or antibacterial agents.
What Happens To Toothpaste Over Time?
After a certain amount of time, the fluoride in your toothpaste will break down and become unstable, and it may bond with other ingredients to form hard crystals. By this point, it will no longer be effective at protecting your teeth from cavities.
Other toothpaste ingredients are vulnerable to this breakdown process too. If your toothpaste has expired, you might notice a funny taste or colour due to degraded additives. As the binding agents break down, you might also see the ingredients start to separate.
How Long Does Toothpaste Last?
You might have noticed an expiration date of around 18 months to two years on your toothpaste. That’s about the time it takes for fluoride to break down to the point where it no longer provides sufficient cavity protection.
We always recommend choosing a toothpaste that has the Australian Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Approval. The ADA explains that all products bearing the Seal have undergone rigorous testing to ensure they meet high quality and safety standards.
When awarding the Seal to fluoride toothpastes, the ADA tests the fluoride availability in both newly manufactured and expired samples. To qualify, at least 80% of the advertised fluoride must be available at the point of expiry.
What Happens If You Use Expired Toothpaste?
By choosing a toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Approval, you can be sure your toothpaste is working hard right up to the expiry date. But what about afterwards?
Essentially, you won’t get sick from using “expired” toothpaste, but you probably won’t get much benefit from it either. That means it’s ok to use that old toothpaste in a pinch, but you should replace it with a fresh new tube as soon as possible to keep your teeth healthy.
Tips for Keeping Your Toothpaste Fresh
To get the most out of your toothpaste, always put the cap on when you’re finished to prevent it from drying out. It’s best to store your toothpaste in a clean, cool environment, like a cabinet or drawer, as warmer temperatures can cause the ingredients to separate.