Dentist's View of the Colgate vs. Crest Toothpaste Debate

How to know which toothpaste is best for you

Tending to her pearly whites An attractive young woman brushing her teeth in the morning
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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.

Crest touts its stannous fluoride over the sodium fluoride in other toothpaste brands. Colgate, meanwhile, has a lock on triclosan, an antibacterial agent for the treatment of gingivitis.

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 such as antibacterial soap, the FDA says it does not have evidence that triclosan provides any additional health benefits.

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. Many manufacturers have begun to remove triclosan from these products, where it wasn't an essential ingredient.

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 use, including Colgate. Stannous fluoride uses the element tin to bind the fluoride. Studies have found that it may be better for preventing erosion.

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 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.

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.


"5 Things to Know About Triclosan." U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2016). 

Artopoulou II, Powers JM, Chambers MS. In vitro staining effects of stannous fluoride and sodium fluoride on ceramic materialThe Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry. 2010;103(3):163-169. doi:10.1016/s0022-3913(10)60023-6. 

Huysmans M-C, Young A, Ganss C. The Role of Fluoride in Erosion TherapyMonographs in Oral Science Erosive Tooth Wear. 2014:230-243. doi:10.1159/000360555. 

Steckelberg JM "Should I avoid products that contain triclosan?" Mayo Clinic (2017).

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