Does toothpaste expire?

When it comes to checking expiration dates, we are likely to check foods like milk or eggs. But did you know that toothpaste also has an expiration date?

Toothpaste helps keep teeth healthy and prevent cavities. But, brushing with an expired toothpaste has some disadvantages for dental health and does not guarantee adequate cleaning. Toothpaste can go bad. That’s because it has several active ingredients like fluoride , a naturally occurring mineral that is extremely important in preventing cavities. And over time, fluoride breaks down and becomes less effective. It generally has a two-year shelf life from the date of manufacture , although you can find the date printed on the container or tube.

More cavities and less clean teeth

Choosing to brush your teeth with an old toothpaste is not the best for oral health. Mainly, it puts us at higher risk of cavities. One of the active ingredients in toothpaste, fluoride, becomes significantly less active after it expires. That can spell trouble for pearly whites, since fluoride’s main action is to prevent cavities from forming.

Fluoride strengthens enamel (the outer surface of teeth), better protecting it against acid attacks that trigger cavities. Once its expiration date passes, the fluoride becomes less effective at doing its job, increasing your risk of developing cavities.

On the other hand, after the toothpaste expires, it can start to develop fungus and bacteria . And aside from being gross, these microbes can also get in your mouth. These species of fungi and bacteria are not native to the oral cavity and their introduction can alter the oral flora, increasing the risk of caries formation and gingival or gum inflammation.

It should also be mentioned that most of us love the feeling of freshness that comes with clean teeth. Unfortunately, an old tube of toothpaste can spoil this pleasant experience. Although not harmful per se, some ingredients in toothpaste tend to lose their quality over time, ruining the mint flavor.

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Can it be used in an emergency?

Brushing your teeth with expired toothpaste is certainly not ideal, but it’s not the worst case scenario either. Although we can continue using the toothpaste for several months without diminishing its effectiveness, it is not recommended to use toothpaste that has expired several years ago . That’s because all the unwanted effects usually don’t happen immediately after expiration.

Meaning, using old toothpaste in a pinch won’t harm your teeth as long as it’s not a year or more past its expiration date. If the expiration date of the tube is more than one year, it must be thrown away. In this case it is better to brush with water until we can replace the toothpaste. Although toothpaste is crucial for healthy teeth, mechanical removal of plaque and debris, through the friction of brushing and flossing, is the most effective way to prevent cavities.