September 24th 2021
Should we spend as much on toothpaste as we do on skincare?
September 22nd 2021 / 0 comment
A wave of premium toothpaste has arrived in the last few months, but do we really need £20+ oral care? Dentists weigh in
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We might think nothing of parting with upward of £20 for skincare but when it comes to toothpaste, the thought of spending more than the standard £2.99 might raise an eyebrow. But why do we lavish care and attention on our faces but make do with whatever tube of toothpaste is on offer in the supermarket?
This is all set to change with the arrival of a raft of new wellness toothpastes, which come with skincare-like ingredients such as exfoliators, moisturisers and even mouth microbiome boosters. You can even buy a conditioner for your teeth. It wasn't too long ago that haircare went through a similar 'skinification’ transformation. Oral wellbeing or 'oral beauty' as it's also now called is next on the list. And not before time says dentist Dr Uchenna Okoye, who has just brought out her own premium toothpaste called Mysmile, £17.99. “Using standard toothpaste is the equivalent of using soap and water to wash your face,” she says.
Why has oral care had a glow-up?
From the rise of the bathroom shelfie (basic toothpaste just doesn't complement our pretty skincare packaging) to wanting to turn everyday acts into self-care, it's no surprise oral care has had a glam makeover.
In January 2021 Cult Beauty launched its Oral Care category and by May sales of artisan toothpastes, chic toothbrushes, posh mouthwash and floss increased by 85 per cent. "There are multiple consumer trends converging to breathe life into this once enthusiasm-free category," says Alexia Inge, the site's co-founder - microbiome care and sustainability being just two. The desire to age well is also a factor. "Not least the understanding that a beautifully-kept set of gnashers is one of the most natural-looking ways of taking years off your face."
Our interest in immune health has also propelled the trend. "We are only just starting to understand things like the link between gum health and heart disease and how much our mouths act as a gateway to both good health and a strong immune system," she adds.
Then there's the shelfie factor, the chance to elevate the everyday to something you’re proud to showcase on the bathroom shelf.
Turning tooth brushing into a self-care activity by way of investing in fancy oral care is definitely something Swedish artisan toothpaste brand Selahatin believes in. “You start and end your day with oral care, so why not elevate your everyday routine?” says Selahatin founder Kristoffer Vural.
Having a toothpaste that’s a joy to use means you’re more likely to spend the requisite brushing time (two minutes) using it rather than giving teeth a cursory scrub and then leaping into bed.
What to look for in luxury toothpaste
Essentially we need toothpaste to do two things: to clean and to protect. It needs to remineralise or 'heal' the enamel after an acid attack (caused either by acidic food or bacteria feeding on sugars) and to clean any bacteria and food particles away. Much of the 'cleansing' part happens through manual brushing, but ingredients such as silica give an exfoliating cleanse by gently polishing the enamel to remove stains.
As with skincare, active ingredients in our toothpaste can make it more effective, says Dr Uchenna. Her Mysmile toothpaste includes silica along with the enamel-rebuilding ingredients hydroxyapatite and fluoride, which are essential for preventing cavities. You’ll rarely find a dentist who recommends toothpaste without fluoride, though some high-end toothpaste brands choose to leave it out in favour of other remineralizing or bacteria-busting ingredients.
“Fluoride helps tooth enamel become more resistant to damage from acid and sugars,” say dentist and Waken mouth care ambassador Dr Ruth Baidoo. “Without using fluoride toothpaste you are increasing your risk of dental decay,” she continues. Not all fluorides are equal either says Dr Uchenna. Fluoride needs to be combined with the right salts in order for it to be biolavalable (ie usable for the body). For the consumer, it's impossible to tell, says Dr Uchenna, who has made a highly bioavailable version in her product. She has also included xylitol (which starves the harmful bacteria reducing plaque build-up) and glycerine to moisturise. This is especially important if you suffer from menopausal dry mouth.
If you’re a devotee of microbiome skincare, you’ll be interested to know that probiotic skincare brand Gallinée has just launched a Gallinée Prebiotic Toothpaste, £12 to support the mouth microbiome. Traditional toothpastes blast all bacteria - even the good ones. Founder Marie Drago says, "99 per cent of oral bacteria are beneficial, with only one per cent being harmful. Yet traditional oral care products kill 100 per cent of oral bacteria as they may be made with harsh formulas. This could lead to a sensitive and less diverse oral ecosystem, more inclined to imbalance, dry mouth and bad breath with a weaker, less self-sufficient microbiome."
The fancy offerings pay as much attention to what they leave out as to what they put in. Posh toothpaste often sidesteps SLS, much like skincare and haircare does. “SLS brings nothing to the table except it makes the product foam,” says Dr Uchenna. Plus it's drying. “SLS can cause ulcers because it dries the mouth out,” she continues.
Less expensive toothpaste will often have more water in it, which then needs preservatives, to stop bacteria forming, which we can end up swallowing. Look out too for filler ingredients such as titanium dioxide, whose sole function is to colour the toothpaste white.
Sustainability is an issue which some designer toothpastes are tackling and which may account for their price tag. "There’s a plastic problem with traditional toothpaste,” says cosmetic dentist Dr Rhona Eskander of the Chelsea Dental Clinic in London. “Most toothpaste tubes are made from single-use plastic, which is non-recyclable and takes 500 years to decompose.” Many premium toothpastes use aluminium packaging or are in post-consumer recycled plastic.
Can expensive toothpaste whiten your teeth?
Nothing other than bleach, prescribed by your dentist, can safely whiten your teeth, Dr Uchenna tells us. While artisan toothpastes may be called 'whitening', they are more accurately stain removers. Removing stains will make teeth appear whiter but only professional whitening will get into the tooth pores and unclog the stains in them, says Uchenna.
Our edit of the chicest premium toothpastes
The microbiome supporting one: Gallinée Prebiotic Toothpaste, £12
This mint-flavoured microbiome-supporting toothpaste doesn’t contain anti-bacterial ingredients such as fluoride, but that doesn’t mean it’s not protecting your teeth from bacteria. In fact, it stops bacteria from attacking your teeth with alternative bacteria-busting ingredients such as xylitol. It’s full of prebiotics to feed the microbiome to care for sensitive teeth and gums and to rebalance your mouth plus it has ultra-fine polishing clays to help with staining. The tube is made from post-consumer plastic, for sustainability credentials.
The sustainable one: Waken Peppermint toothpaste, £4
We first met Waken when we tried the brand's mouthwash, which comes in unique flavours such as Lemonmint and Strawberry and Mint (trust us, the combo works). This gel formula toothpaste comes in a recycled aluminium tube for eco-friendly points. It contains fluorides but is free from artificial colours and dyes, making the gel a naturally cloudy white colour. It's vegan and tastes ultra-fresh. It's the least expensive in our edit, but one of the most chic with the pastel packaging looking pretty wherever in the bathroom you place it (for us, we keep it next to the pink bottle of Waken mouthwash).
The one with diamonds: Icy Bear Diamond Dust Whitening Toothpaste, £17.99
Created by UK dentist Dr Hanna Kinsella, this is the mintiest of the toothpastes we tried, with an 'extra strong mint' taste for fresh breath. As well as the recommended dose of fluoride for enamel protection, this also has hydrogen peroxide for chemical whitening and ultra-fine diamond dust for physical whitening – very fancy indeed! The diamond dust cleanses softly, without being too abrasive, polishes and reducing surface stains. Other ingredients include xylitol and glycerin. It's SLS and palm-oil free as well as being vegan and looks incredibly chic in the bathroom. While the packaging is not recyclable yet, they tell us they are working on a glass tube!
It's part of Dr Hanna's newly launched whitening range which also includes some genius dissolvable Icy Bear Whitening Strips, £39.99 and the Icy Bear Sonic Whitening Toothbrush, £59.99, which is one of the best value performance electric toothbrushes we've found.
The familiar face: Colgate Elixir White Restore Whitening Toothpaste, £12
It seems out of character to spend £12 on Colgate, but rest assured, this is worth the extra £8 or so. It even looks chic in the post silver packaging. It includes fluoride as well as silica to whiten, which you don't tend to find in standard supermarket toothpaste, as well as two other whitening minerals for extra shiny bright teeth.
The tooth rebuilding one: Regenerate Enamel Science Advanced Toothpaste, £10
The clue’s in the name with this one – it regenerates enamel with ingredients that wrap around the teeth to remineralise them without fluoride. It has a fresh mint flavour and contains glycerin to prevent dryness in the mouth and silica for exfoliation and stain removal. It’s clinically proven, based on years of research, to recreate the mineral that tooth enamel is made of, reversing any erosion we might have.
The fruity one: Curaprox Toothpaste Be You, £9.50
Available in a variety of fun flavours (blackberry, gin and tonic and grapefruit, to name a few) Swiss brand Curaprox’s colourful toothpastes are SLS-free and include hydroxyapatite to protect teeth from demineralisation plus natural enzymes to whiten along with fluoride. The flavours make them a great choice for anyone who doesn't like an icy blast when they brush their teeth.
Xylitol is in the mix, plus echinacea, bitter orange, devil’s claw and Indian pennywort support your mucus membranes and stop inflammation. Plus provitamin B5, which supports the formation of new cells. They're as pretty on the outside as the inside, with the colour of the paste often matching the tube. Some retailers, such as pharmacy John Bell and Croyden, sell the toothpaste in a set with a toothbrush in a matching shade for £16, to really finesse your bathroom shelfie.
The self-care one: Selahatin Escapist Whitening Toothpaste, £20
Stockholm brand Selahatin wants to elevate everyday activities (such as brushing your teeth) into a joyous occasion and this aluminium packaged paste does just that. It comes in four surprising flavours including Escapist, which is a combo of cinnamon, orange and peppermint.. There's also Amorist which combines green mint, peppermint and menthol (minty!), Hypnotist which fuses anise, honey and mint and lastly Vesper, which tastes of anise, liquorice and cinnamon. The collection has silica for stain removal and fluoride too. It does contain SLS, so if you have a sensitive mouth, it might not be your best choice. It comes inside metal packaging with just a tiny plastic lid.
The traditional one: Buly 1803 Opiat Dentaire Mint Coriander Toothpaste, £21
This mint, coriander and cucumber flavour toothpaste not only looks stylish but is infused with soothing thermal water which freshens the breath. It has glycerin and silica too, but no fluoride. The packaging is entirely plastic-free and the brand name comes from when it was founded, way back in 1803 in France.
The luxe one: Theodent 300 Toothpaste, £140
How to warrant spending £140 on toothpaste…? In Harrod's, where this posh paste sells, anything is possible! This ultra-luxe buy justifies its price tag with the inclusion of Rennou, an ingredient comprised of theobromine (a cocoa extract that remineralises), calcium and phosphate which the brand says is more effective than fluoride (which it doesn't contain) at remineralising enamel and hardening the teeth and there are studies that support that Rennou is more effective than fluoride. It also has extremely shelfie-worthy packaging and tastes like chocolate.
The celebrity dentist one: Apa Beauty Apa White Toothpaste, £20
Formulated by cosmetic dentist Dr Michael Apa, who has clinics in Dubai, LA and New York and counts Chloe Sevigny and Vera Wang as clients, this fluoride-free toothpaste uses hydroxyapatite to rebuild the surface of your teeth and silica to remove stains. It includes peppermint oil for minty freshness.
The GTG favourite: My Smile Whitening Toothpaste, £17.99
Dr Uchenna’s toothpaste includes silica for an exfoliating cleanse, a bioavailable fluoride for cavity prevention, hydroxyapatite to rebuild tooth enamel and stop demineralisation, all with a natural peppermint and spearmint oil to stimulate saliva, which helps protect teeth. Uchenna has moved all preservatives from her product, saying: "Preservatives are mostly needed when a toothpaste has a high water percentage and can grow bacteria. The Mysmile formula is highly concentrated, has low water content, so there is no need for this extra ingredient." It comes our pearlescent rather than white as it's free from titanium dioxide.
The sparkly one: Moon Cavity Protection Fluoride Whitening Toothpaste, £9.95
Kendall Jenner’s oral care brand Moon’s toothpaste is ever so slight sparkly and is as lovely to use as it is to look at. It’s vegan and uses silica to stain remove, along with glycerin and xylitol too. Not all of Moon's toothpastes have fluoride, so keep an eye out when you're buying.
The CBD one: LA Pacific Gum Health Enzyme Whitening Toothpaste, £12
CBD has been an on-trend skincare ingredient for a while and now it's found its way into oral care too. The paste has CBD, aloe vera and vitamin E to help keep your whole mouth protected. CBD and aloe vera help with inflammation so will ease inflamed gums, while vitamin E soothes the gums. For the whitening claims, it uses silica to stain remove and has fluoride too.