Dentist's View of Colgate vs. Crest Toothpaste Debate

How to Know Which Toothpaste Is Best for You


Take a stroll down your local supermarket's oral care aisle. You will be inundated with a barrage of products, all using similar buzzwords. You will see lots of glittery, glimmering packages all designed to catch your eye. The result is actually the opposite. It becomes a sea of similarity, difficult to decipher the claims from the truth.

This can be a problem because toothpaste isn't just another trivial personal care product; it is an important part of your at-home oral care routine.

Between visits to your dentist, brushing and flossing your teeth are two of the most important daily routines for your oral hygiene and health. In the end, what toothpaste product you choose does matter.

The Crest vs. Colgate Debate

When shopping for toothpaste, it's hard to ignore Crest and Colgate, which are two of the leading toothpaste brands in the United States. Both brands make claims about their effectiveness in all the major oral health categories from cavity prevention to teeth whitening to breath freshening. Let's take a look at some of the defining features and active ingredients of these two leading toothpaste brands.

Colgate Total and Triclosan

Colgate Total was the first toothpaste to apply and receive FDA approval for treatment of gingivitis. The active ingredient in their toothpaste product is an antibacterial called triclosan which along with a copolymer helps the ingredient's effects to endure in the mouth for up to 12 hours after use.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, triclosan is an antimicrobial agent that helps to "slow or stop the growth of bacteria, fungi, and mildew."

The Federal Drug Administration found that the triclosan in Colgate Total was effective in preventing gingivitis. But for other consumer products, the FDA says it does not have evidence that triclosan provides any additional health benefits.

Crest Pro-Health and Stannous Fluoride

Crest Pro-Health, on the other hand, uses stannous fluoride instead of the sodium fluoride most other toothpaste brands - including Colgate - uses. Stannous fluoride uses the element tin to bind the fluoride. A side effect of using stannous fluoride is that it can stain your teeth. In addition, some patients can experience some sloughing off of their gums (where the thin surface layer peels away). Though gum sloughing is generally not harmful, it can be alarming and can cause an increased sensitivity to spices.  

The Safety of Triclosan in Toothpaste

Triclosan has become a point of contention in the battle between Crest and Colgate. Colgate currently holds the patent so no other toothpaste can use the active ingredient until that patent expires.

According to the Mayo Clinic, recent studies have raised questions about the safety of ​triclosan. There is not enough evidence to recommend avoiding using toothpaste and other products containing triclosan, but there has been increased concern about its safety and effectiveness.

The Bottom Line

Most dentists still recommend that the chief ingredient consumers should look for in their toothpaste is fluoride, which both Crest and Colgate brand toothpaste contain (albeit in different forms). Fluoride is the only ingredient that has been shown to restore a tooth's enamel, provided it hasn't yet decayed.


James M. Steckelberg, M.D. "Should I avoid products that contain triclosan?" Mayo Clinic (2014).

"Triclosan: What Consumers Should Know." U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2013).

"Triclosan Facts." U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Web Archive (2010).

Continue Reading