A close up of toothpaste on a toothbrush

Does Toothpaste Expire?

Ever run out of toothpaste and grabbed a small tube from your travel kit or your dentist-visit samples supply?

Next time you do, take a look at the tube. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate over-the-counter toothpaste expiration dates, toothpaste packaging lists them. These expiration dates help ensure your toothpaste's ingredients remain effective in its packaging.

Though expired toothpaste can work in a pinch and is usually safe, its ingredients might not produce the desired result. So, it's best to check the expiration date and buy the freshest toothpaste you can.

Why Does Toothpaste Expire?

For a toothpaste to receive the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, it must meet stringent requirements for safety and effectiveness. And the effectiveness of the ingredients in toothpaste determines its shelf-life.

All toothpaste receiving the ADA Seal of Acceptance must contain one ingredient, in particular, fluoride. This mineral – which the ADA calls "nature's cavity fighter" – can start to break down over time, decreasing your protection from bacteria-causing decay.

Though fluoride is the leading toothpaste ingredient you don't want expiring in the tube, toothpaste contains other active ingredients: an abrasive, a flavor or sweetening agent, a moisturizing agent, and a detergent. Depending on your toothpaste, these ingredients might not decrease in potency over time, but they factor in other ways to expired toothpaste's eventual ineffectiveness.

Be aware that these other factors can lead to a less safe, ineffective toothpaste:

  • Development of bacteria or fungi in uncapped or improperly handled toothpaste
  • Separation of ingredients over time

How Long Does Toothpaste Last?

Oral health professionals recommend two years maximum. This ensures essential fluoride is at an optimal level of stability to renew tooth enamel. Also, after two years, the consistency in the paste's color and taste can change. Or it might dry out. Even with similar two-year timelines, some kinds of toothpaste might have even shorter shelf-lives.

If you reach for a forgotten tube in your medicine cabinet, always check the expiration date before using it.

How Can I Keep Toothpaste Fresh?

Make sure you keep it as germ-free and fresh as possible by following these tips:

  • Always put the cap back on or close the flip-top, making sure there's no paste around the edges. Exposed toothpaste can attract dirt, dust particles, and germs.
  • Keep your toothpaste and your toothbrush in a closed cabinet, especially if you store them in the bathroom. Exposing these oral care essentials to bacteria from your toilet area, frankly, stinks.
  • Store your paste in a cool-ish environment. At hotter temperatures, ingredients can separate and even start to liquefy, becoming less effective.
  • Oh, and did we mention: Replace your toothpaste every two years at a minimum.

To better ensure you enjoy a cavity-free life, all toothpaste ingredients need to be fresh and effective, especially fluoride. The two-year expiration date for toothpaste helps alert you that you need to use a particular tube of toothpaste before its fluoride breaks down. You want to get the most out of a tube of toothpaste – just be mindful of quality as well as quantity.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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