Top dollar doesn't give you the whitest smile

CHOICE squeezes the marketing spin out of toothpaste

CHOICE says consumers are paying more for marketing spin than real benefits when they buy higher priced toothpaste.

The people’s watchdog reviewed 17 toothpaste products ranging in price from $1.27 to $7.99, comparing the ingredients and product claims of each concluding that the toothpaste market is ‘market segmentation’ at its most successful.

“Terms like ‘advanced-whitening’, ‘multi-action,’ ‘enamel-lock,’ and ‘micro-cleaning crystals’ give the impression that the large range of toothpastes all do something different, with the expensive items doing something more than a basic product,” says CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just.

“In reality, you’re paying extra for essentially the same product.”

CHOICE’s review found most toothpaste products contain the same ingredients such as fluoride, a mild abrasive (such as calcium carbonate or hydrated silica) along with humectants to help the paste retain water. Thickeners, sweeteners, lathering agents and flavours are also added.

“Brands are constantly searching for a point of difference to market their products, but the ingredients speak for themselves.  All toothpastes do basic jobs – they polish teeth and dislodge particles of food to avoid cavities and plaque,” says Ms Just.

Colgate Palmolive and GlaxoSmithKline, control 92% of the Australian toothpaste market.

Despite the dominance of teeth whitening products in the oral care market, none of the whitening toothpastes investigated contained a bleaching agent – an ingredient required to physically alter the colour of teeth. Experts told CHOICE that the fine print covers the lack of a bleaching agent by saying that the toothpaste will remove stains.

“Whitening toothpastes are not an overall whitening treatment. In fact, of the 13 adult toothpastes we looked at, there was very little difference in the active ingredients, regardless of how cheap or expensive they were,” says Ms Just.

Colgate Advanced Whitening toothpaste ($3.99 for 110g) and Woolworths Home brand Freshmint toothpaste ($1.27 for 150g) contain many of the same ingredients. 

White Glo Extra Strength Coffee & Tea Drinkers Formula at $4.69 for 150g costs more than three times as much as Coles Smart Buy regular toothpaste at $1.27 for 150g.

“The only real difference is that the White Glo product contains rosehip oil and a carnauba wax sourced from a Brazilian palm tree. Experts we spoke to believe this wax would have little impact on removing stains,” says Ms Just.

CHOICE says marketing spin isn’t confined to toothpastes for adults, with sophisticated marketing just as prominent in children’s toothpaste¹. Many products use packaging that features popular children’s characters such as Spiderman and the Wiggles, with others containing coloured stripes and sparkles.

“While dental experts recommend special low-fluoride toothpastes for very young children, those aimed at children over seven are nothing more than toothpaste manufacturers creating a niche market segment. That’s not a problem for the child’s teeth but it does potentially confuse parents who think they should buy special toothpaste for older children,” says Ms Just.

CHOICE’s tips when buying toothpaste:

  • Make sure it contains fluoride, the most important ingredient in toothpaste.
  • Be regular – brush morning and night with a soft toothbrush, using a soft brushing motion.
  • Floss – it stops small food particles becoming trapped between your teeth.
  • Watch your carbohydrate and sugar intake – the bacteria in the mouth breaks down sugars and carbohydrates, producing acids that can attach enamel and begin the decaying process.

¹ For babies and toddlers up to the age of 18 months, dental experts don’t recommend toothpaste due to the fact that they tend to swallow it. For children between 18 months and six years of age, low fluoride toothpaste is recommended.

To read CHOICE’s full report on toothpaste claims, visit


Media contact: Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669


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