If you've run out of toothpaste and are tempted to grab your back-up travel tube, you may want to think again. Toothpastes have an expiry date: this will be shown on the product label as cosmetic products with a durability of less than 30 months are required by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) to be clearly labelled with the expiry date.
Why Does Toothpaste Expire?
In order for any toothpaste to be given the Seal of Approval from the Singapore Dental Association (SDA), it must satisfy the association's strict regulations. The shelf life of the product is determined only by the effectiveness of the ingredients in the toothpaste, so there's no direct danger to your health in using a recently expired tube in a pinch. But it does impact the effectiveness in preventing tooth decay and cavities if you use expired toothpaste in the long term. Fluoride in the toothpaste can start to break down, decreasing your protection from bacteria-causing decay.
Brushing regularly using a toothpaste with low relative abrasion (or relative dentine abrasivity, RDA) over the course of your lifetime can produce almost no wear to your enamel. Brushing your teeth correctly keeps the enamel strong so that the soft dentine that houses your teeth's nerves is protected. It's important for all the ingredients to be fresh so your toothpaste works best.
Active Ingredients in Toothpaste
On the whole, toothpaste contains five active ingredients, including fluoride, an abrasive, a flavour or sweetening agent, a moisturising agent and a detergent, which are listed on the product packaging. Saccharin or sorbitol gives the paste a sweet flavour, and sodium lauryl sulphate is a cleaning agent that works with the humectant to produce a smooth and foamy consistency to help clean your teeth.
When Does Toothpaste Expire?
Many toothpastes have a two-year expiry date to ensure that the fluoride is at an optimal level of stability, as the ions in the fluoride are at their most effective within two years. After that time, the consistency in colour and taste can change. Most pastes have a similar timeline, although some may have a shorter shelf life. If you reach for a forgotten tube in your medicine cabinet, it's important to check the expiry date before using it.
Tips for Keeping Toothpaste Fresh
You should always put the cap back on the toothpaste when you're finished with it, making sure there's no paste around the edges to attract any dirt or dust particles. Likewise, if you store it in the bathroom, it's best to keep your toothpaste in a closed cabinet, and that goes for your toothbrush too. Though it may be unpleasant to think about, keeping any of your oral products out in the open can expose them to bacteria from your toilet and the bathroom area in general. Finally, store your paste in a cooler environment. At hotter temperatures, ingredients can separate and start to liquefy, becoming less effective.