Ever come across a tube of toothpaste and wonder if it’s too old to use? If you buy toothpaste in bulk or collect travel tubes of toothpaste (guilty!), it’s quite easy to forget and find them a year or two later—still unused and now unsure if they are still good.
So, the questions that naturally pop up are, ‘does toothpaste actually expire’? And ‘is it safe to use expired toothpaste or toothpaste without an expiration date listed?’
There are a few things to know when assessing whether or not you should use expired toothpaste. Let’s check them out.
How Long Does Toothpaste Last?
As a rule of thumb, most toothpaste should last up to two years. The reason for this is that most toothpaste contains an ingredient called fluoride, which will eventually become inactive after that amount of time. That said, natural toothpaste lasts longer as it does not contain fluoride and other ingredients that may lose effectiveness. Because of that, the American Dental Association (ADA) requires all toothpaste containing fluoride to have an expiration date clearly listed on the product. If toothpaste does not contain fluoride, it may or may not have an expiration date listed.
What Happens If You Use Expired Toothpaste?
If you are using a toothpaste that contains fluoride and it is expired, you can expect that active ingredient to be either less effective or inactive. Additionally, any flavoring may fade as time goes by and the ingredients may also separate, making the paste more liquidy. Natural and fluoride-free toothpaste however will most likely still be effective and less impacted by time.
Can Expired Toothpaste Make You Sick?
The short answer is no. If properly stored with the cap or lid on, expired toothpaste will not make you sick. The flavor and effectiveness of some ingredients, however, may weaken over time.
So, you can rest easy knowing that you aren’t going to end up in the hospital from using a tube of toothpaste past the expiration date. That said, you may notice some differences in a fresh tube of toothpaste versus one that has been on the shelf for a year or two.
How To Know If Toothpaste Is Expired
Most toothpaste will have a date listed on the packaging letting you know when it expires. As mentioned above, it is generally safe to use toothpaste past this date, however, you may notice changes in texture, taste, and a weakening of some of the ingredients.
If your toothpaste does not have an expiration date listed, it is typically considered “expired” or past its “best by” date within two years of purchase. That said, if the toothpaste contains natural ingredients, it should be good past the two years if stored properly since it doesn’t contain fluoride.
It is generally not unsafe to use toothpaste past its expiration date, however, you may notice these changes if you do choose to use a toothpaste past its expiration date:
- If it contains fluoride, this ingredient will be less-effective
- The ingredients may separate causing it to be more liquidy
- It may dry out (especially if the lid or cap is left off the toothpaste packaging)
- Flavoring may be weakened
Any toothpaste containing fluoride will eventually expire because fluoride loses its effectiveness over time. And while fluoride does have some benefits, there are also downsides to using fluoride in toothpaste—the expiration date is just one of them. Learn more about fluoride in toothpaste here.
And finally, it is ultimately your decision whether you want to use a toothpaste past its expiration date. If you are practicing good oral health and brushing your teeth regularly, you shouldn’t have an issue using your toothpaste before it is set to expire, unless you are buying in bulk.