• Laurel A. Rockefeller

Gum Care Toothpastes: A comparison to Cut Through the Hype

If you live in the United States you've probably seen the advertisements too. Parodontax warns you with their ads set on a light rail train that you are on the road to gum disease and tooth loss and that using their special toothpaste is your best route to avoiding dental disaster.

Among competing brands available at your local store, parodontax is on the slightly higher end of the spectrum with an average price between $5-7 at the time of this posting for a 3.4 oz tube. Worth every penny if you believe the advertisements.

I believed those ads after going to the dentist (see The Rotting Tooth Adventure) and was convinced by those ads that I needed to spend the extra money to save the rest of my teeth. What I didn't do when I was anxiously picking up that tube at my local Dollar General was to comparison shop. Out of character for me, I didn't question the ad's honesty. I thought paradontax really was a unique product and still believed that after starting to use it and having to endure what is, in my humble opinion, one of the worst tasting oral care products on the market. Its active ingredient: stannous fluoride 0.454%, 0.15% with fluoride ion. Results after using it everyday for a month: NO CHANGE from brushing with other toothpastes.

With the tube nearly used up, I looked into my cupboard to see if I had already purchased toothpastes from other brands before spending money on another bad-tasting parodontax. Sure enough, I had squirreled away both a 4.8 ounce tube of Colgate Total that was on sale earlier this year at Dollar General for 2/$5 and a DG house brand version of Sensodyne's Repair and Protect 3.4 oz for about $3.50. In addition, I found for $1 each a 2.1 oz tube of Colgate Ultra Relief on the special $1 buy aisle at Dollar General. Of these three, the Colgate Ultra Relief is the best tasting.

Flipping the tubes over and ignoring all the pretty packaging and claims, I looked at the active ingredient on each one. To my great surprise, all three of these had the same active ingredient: stannous fluoride 0.454%, 0.15% with fluoride ion. Yep! EXACTLY the same as the parodontax. Inactive ingredients (which the parodontax does not list) are only marked on the two Colgate products, both made by Colgate-Palmolive company. These inactive ingredients probably account for the better taste when you think about it. Just as important, the Colgate products provide you with more information and more useful information as a consumer on the tubes themselves. Instead of claiming big things about how effective they are against gum disease, the Colgate products focus on multiple aspects to oral health.

Reality is this: there are genuine limitations to what at home dental care can do. Some parts of our oral health care really do require the services of medical professionals. In making big claims to justify higher prices, products like parodontax (and to be fair, Sensodyne as well) do us all a disservice. Instead, we are better off spending less on toothpaste and investing more in seeing oral health professionals.

And of course: be smart and always read the labels of multiple, competing products for their active ingredients. Why pay $10 for some toothpaste when there's another brand on the next shelf with the same active ingredients for less than half the price? I for one will be brushing with the $1 Colgate Relief and not buying parodontax again!

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