You may be surprised to learn that toothpaste has an expiration date. Like many of us, you may have thought about it but never bothered to check. It really does expire and it is worth knowing about.

OK, sure, but does this really mean anything? It doesn’t go moldy or anything right? The FDA does require toothpaste to have an expiration date. Whether that means anything or not it has to have a date. That is true for a lot of things and depending on the exact product it may or may not make a difference. With toothpaste it actually does make a difference. It isn’t the same as with food or other products that actually go bad but it still matters.

The Risks of Toothpaste Expiration

Expired toothpaste isn’t going to make you sick. It doesn’t grow mold or smell bad either. The real risk is that it may not be as effective as it would be if it were fresh. One specific ingredient that losses its effectiveness is fluoride. Not everyone cares about fluoride and some people don’t even want it. If you use fluoride free toothpaste, this could be a non-issue. This could give the user a false sense of security making them think that they are gaining all of the benefits of fluoride while they are silently being denied that protection without any way to tell the difference except for the expiration date.

Another ingredient that could be affected is Sodium Laurel Sulfate. This is one of the main cleaning ingredients in many varieties of toothpaste. It is used as a foaming agent. Over time it looses potency and will start to not work as well. So basically, when it gets really, really old there might not be as much foam.


Beyond all that, another ‘risk’ is that the ingredients may start to separate out. They may become crystallized. I image this would change the consistency a bit. Once it gets too old to be useful, you will know. You will notice that it may get either clumpy or runny. The third risk would be that the flavor may diminish. This might make your tooth brushing experience a little bit less enjoyable especially if you are a connoisseur or just love having it taste just right. It isn’t anything even remotely close to a real risk that could actually hurt you.

The Toothpaste Expiration Date – Not So Bad

It isn’t as bad as it seems. It will still work to clean your teeth fairly well. It still won’t make you sick. It typically takes at least a couple years to actually expire and even then it will still be a gradual change. It isn’t all going to stop working exactly on the expiration date and with toothpaste it will be extra slow to change. It will basically work with slightly reduced reduce strength which will diminish very slowly over time.

As a specific example, according to Colgate, their brand will last for anywhere from 12 to even 18 months past the expiration date. Yep, thats right, past the date. Coming up with these estimates isn’t an exact science either. It is more of a guesstimate. The actual expiration date is two years after manufacture so it could theoretically last over 3 years and that is coming from the manufacturer who benefits from people going through more of their product. You can find what Colgate has to say about it in their FAQ HERE

My recommendation is that if you already have the toothpaste and it is close to the expiration date, just go ahead and use it. On the other hand, if you are at the store and you notice the date is close, don’t buy it. Just grab another tube. It takes an extra 15 seconds and you can get something with a longer shelf life. That means that in a matter of seconds you can give yourself a greater value. Having an expiration date is a big advantage for the toothpaste manufacturers. They sell more tubes if people throw out a tube every time they notice that it is a little old. You save more if you keep using it even after it gets old. You still get the best deal if you remember to check the date BEFORE you buy.

If you are thinking about buying multiple tubes at once but are worried about expiration, don’t be. It is better to have toothpaste on hand. Plus it takes a long time before it actually does go bad. By some estimates, if you brush twice a day, a single tube of toothpaste will last usually anywhere form 3 to 6 months. This depends on the size of the tube, how much you use each time, how many times per day you brush, and how many people share that tube of toothpaste.

Also not that the requirement for toothpaste to have an expiration date is also put forth by the American Dental Association. That does mean something and anything with their seal on it does need to have a date assigned.

As a side note, remember not to throw away expired toothpaste even if you don’t want to brush with it. There are alternative uses for tooth paste that you can learn about if you check out our other article HERE.