Why don't you swallow toothpaste

Find exactly the right toothpaste with our guide

A helpless look at the long list of ingredients can nip any attempt to find the right toothpaste in the bud. So that you know in the future which criteria you should use to buy toothpaste, we have created a guide for you.

“White teeth in just 30 days”, “For particularly sensitive teeth”, “Prevents tooth decay”, “Without fluoride”: This or something like that is the advertising promise of most toothpaste manufacturers. As a consumer, you can quickly lose track of all the offers. As a result, most customers simply access the toothpaste shelf indiscriminately because they simply do not know what to look out for and what is the best choice for them.

Finding the right toothpaste is not that difficult - you just have to know what is most important to you. In our guide you will find out which criteria are particularly important for toothpaste and when toothpaste can be harmful.

Finding the Right Toothpaste: These ingredients are important

Even if there are differences from toothpaste to toothpaste, most of them have a similar composition. After all, there are specific requirements for toothpaste that can only be met with certain ingredients. Most products therefore consist of the following active ingredients, among others:

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Cleaning body:

In the best case, the toothpaste should make your teeth white. But how does it actually work? The so-called cleaning bodies are responsible for this: These are contained in the paste in the form of silicate compounds, whiting chalk or marble powder and rub off food residues and plaque from the teeth with the mechanical movement of the brush.

Important: If there are too many, too hard or too large cleaning particles, the toothpaste will be harmful to dental health. Because then the base is abraded too aggressively and the teeth are damaged. The concentration is given with the so-called RDA value: the higher it is, the less the toothpaste rubs off and the gentler it is. A value of 0-20 is considered very gentle, with 40-60 you are in the middle and from a value of 60 the toothpaste is considered to be very abrasive, i.e. it rubs off the tooth enamel.

Foaming agent:

With the help of these ingredients, the toothpaste is better distributed in the mouth. In addition, they help that the leftover food and toppings are easier to peel off and easier to remove. The foaming agents consist, for example, of sodium lauryl sulfate and have the unpleasant side effect that they can trigger allergies or irritate the oral mucosa.


Without the fresh taste in our mouths, we'd probably only be half as happy to brush our teeth. This is ensured by substances such as menthol.


To prevent the toothpaste from drying out, it contains humectants such as sorbitol. Caution: If you are fructose intolerant, you should avoid this ingredient.


When we buy toothpaste, we expect that its shelf life will not expire after a few weeks. This is ensured by preservatives such as hydroxybenzoic acid esters or parabens.


To harden the enamel, many toothpastes contain fluoride. This reduces the risk of tooth decay.

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Why is fluoride in toothpaste so controversial?

Every now and then, certain toothpaste brands advertise that their products do not contain fluoride. This is often the case with so-called "natural cosmetics" in particular. It is precisely this ingredient that, from a concentration of at least 1,000 ppm, ensures that the tooth enamel remains hard and stable and prevents tooth decay. Toothpaste without fluoride regularly fails product tests because this active ingredient - as of today - is the only one that has been proven to prevent tooth decay.

The criticism of fluorides is based first of all on mistaking it for the poisonous fluorine, a corrosive gas that can be fatal to humans. Fluorides, on the other hand, are salts of fluorine and natural components of our teeth and bones. In too high a dose fluoride should not be consumed, which is why toothpaste for children has to contain less of the ingredient than that for adults. However, the amount that you ingest with the toothpaste is harmless to health if you do not swallow the toothpaste regularly, but spit it out properly after brushing.

You can find a detailed fact check on the subject of fluoride in toothpaste here.

Buying expensive toothpaste is not worth it

Expensive equals better? When it comes to toothpaste, you certainly cannot subscribe to this rule of thumb. In tests, cheap “no name” products regularly turn out to be true favorites. This is a shame in that it turns out to be an important criterion when buying, but it also shows that health does not have to be expensive. On the contrary, with the expensive toothpaste brand, you often simply pay for the marketing, while the inconspicuous, but much more effective tube remains on the shelf.

Every child knows how to brush their teeth? Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that!

What common mistakes you could make too

The best toothpaste - what exactly does it have to be able to do?

Finding the best toothpaste is impossible - because it doesn't exist. A universal product that treats all dental problems at once is ultimately just too good to be true. The good news: You can of course still find the right toothpaste for yourself by focusing on what is most important to you.

Toothpaste for white teeth

If you want your toothpaste to make your teeth white, you should pay attention to the RDA value. The higher this is, the more the toothpaste rubs off discoloration from your teeth. However, this is not beneficial for dental health. If you have sensitive teeth or exposed tooth necks, it is better to stay away from whitening products. According to Ökotest, the effectiveness of these products should be treated with caution anyway. In a study that looked at 94 toothpastes for white teeth, two thirds of the providers were unable to provide studies on the effects of whitening. Of the remaining third, only 8 withstood scientific standards. The Stiftung Warentest also took a look at whitening toothpastes. In 2020, the toothpaste test winners were convincing "3D White Luxe Glamorous White" from Blend-a-med with “Very good” (1.1) and the "White Now" from Signal, also with “Very good” (1.1).

Noticeable: The toothpaste test winner from Blend-a-med failed in the eco-test with the rating “unsatisfactory” with regard to the ingredients. Instead, two drugstore brands were convincing here: Among other things, they passed "Bevola Dental Toothpaste Whitening" von Kaufland and the "Dentabella 6 teeth whitening" from Norma with the judgment “very good”.

You don't want to give up your dream of a bright smile?

How to get rid of tooth discoloration

The best toothpaste for sensitive teeth

If your teeth are sensitive to pain, you should make particularly high demands on toothpaste. For example, if it contains too aggressive cleaning material, this can lead to pain. So you'd better avoid whitening products. Polyethylene glycols (PEG) or sodium lauryl sulfate also irritate the mucous membranes and the gums. Instead, there are other ways that toothpaste can protect gums and teeth if they are particularly sensitive to pain. For example with potassium salts such as potassium nitrate, potassium citrate and potassium chloride or with hydroxyapatite, arginine and amine and tin fluoride, which have shown at least some success in studies on reducing toothache. In the Ökotest, the toothpaste test winners were convincing in this respect with the rating “good” "Bevola Dental Toothpaste Sensitive" from Kaufland and "Budnident Toothpaste Pro Sensitive" by Budnikowsky.

The best toothpaste for sensitive gums

If you don't want the toothpaste to irritate the gums, you should make sure that it doesn't contain sodium lauryl sulfate (or sodium lauryl sulfate, SDS, sodium dodecyl sulfate). This surfactant can cause allergies and irritate the skin. In such a case, a suitable toothpaste could help "5in1 nano mint toothpaste" be from dm, which also convinced Ökotest.

The best toothpaste for tooth decay

If you want to prevent tooth decay, your toothpaste should contain fluoride. This is the case with most toothpastes - after all, their main job is to keep teeth healthy. The fluoride in the toothpaste penetrates the tooth structure and strengthens it against acid attacks. Sodium fluoride is more effective than sodium monofluorophosphate, which is also often used. If the toothpaste does not contain fluoride, the caries protection is reduced by more than 30%. Other, alternative ingredients for caries prophylaxis have not yet been adequately researched, which is why there is practically no alternative. The Stiftung Warentest recommends, for example, the "Extra Fresh Complete Protection " the toothpaste brand Parodontax, which also has a low RDA value and thus additionally protects the teeth.

You can find out more about caries prophylaxis here.

The best toothpaste for bad breath

The best way to prevent bad breath is to regularly clean your teeth, tongue and especially the spaces between your teeth. As always, to find the right toothpaste for it, you should take a look at the ingredients. For example, zinc can prevent odor-causing bacteria in the mouth and thus reduce bad breath. A toothpaste that relies on this ingredient is that "Meridol Safe Breath". However, if used too regularly, this can cause discoloration on the teeth.But they can be removed by cleaning with another cream. Caution is also advised for children and adolescents. Toothpaste can be harmful to them if it contains zinc, since at this age they still need a lower zinc intake than adults.

Finding the right toothpaste is only the first step to good oral hygiene and beautiful teeth. You can read what else you should pay attention to here:


Marie-Theres Rüttiger

Marie-Theres is an online editor for health and insurance topics at ottonova. She designs the editorial plan, researches and primarily writes about (e-) health and innovation that make life better.

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