Looking for toothpastes that do not contain stannous fluoride? This guide is specially formulated with alternatives to Colgate Total Toothpaste for those bummed by its new blend.
I went down a bit of a rabbit hole the past couple of weeks after discovering that Colgate-Palmolive changed the formula of my Colgate Total Toothpaste and that I did not care for the new active ingredient stannous fluouride. (Sometimes we do that here, like with our guide to alternatives to Warby Parker that also let you try on glasses at home.)
Here’s a quick guide to the primary fluorides in toothpaste today along with a list of alternatives to Colgate Total Toothpaste that do not contain stannous fluoride.
Comparing the differences between Stannous Fluoride, Sodium Fluoride, Sodium Monofluorophosphate and Triclosan
Toothpastes generally include one of three active ingredients: stannous fluoride, sodium fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate:
Sodium Fluoride (NaF)
Sodium Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in rocks and soil. Research on sodium fluoride began in the early 1900s, and was added to toothpastes beginning in 1914. In the 1940s, cities in the United States began adding sodium fluoride (or similar compounds) to public water supplies to combat tooth decay. (Or, if you believe General Jack D. Ripper, “the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.”)
Sodium Monofluorophosphate (Na2FPO3)
Sodium monfluorophosphate is closely related to sodium fluoride, though the chemical composition is different. Studies about the efficacy of sodium monofluorophosphate vs. sodium fluoride are inconclusive, with some showing statistically significantly better performance of sodium fluoride, and others showing comparable or statistically insignificant benefits.
Stannous Fluoride (SnF2)
Stannous fluoride was introduced in the 1950s, but was overtaken in commercial use by sodium fluoride, which cost less, tasted better and was easier to mix with other ingredients. One advantage of stannous fluoride is that it is also antimicrobial, so it reduces bacteria in the mouth, which leads to less acid and fewer cavities. Colgate-Palmolive also claims that stannous fluoride reduces teeth sensitivity by covering open dentinal tubules. In the 2000s, Procter and Gamble patented a novel way to mix stannous fluoride molecules, leading to the more widespread adoption of stannous fluoride in toothpaste. However, some users maintain that stannous fluoride still tastes metallic or tinny or leaves an unpleasant aftertaste.
Triclosan is an anti-bacterial agent. It is indicated as an “antigingivitis” agent in some toothpastes, including the formula used in Colgate Total Toothpaste prior to 2019. Colgate Total Toothpaste used triclosan in combination with the anti-cavity agent sodium fluoride until Colgate-Palmolive reformulated the composition in 2019. Since it was removed from Colgate Total Toothpaste in 2019 and was banned from inclusion in topical soaps and antiseptics by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2017, it no longer appears to be in widespread use in personal care products in the United States.
Colgate Total Toothpaste has been reformulated with stannous flouride and tastes different
When I reached for a new tube of Colgate Total toothpaste, the packaging didn’t look the same, and the flavor was noticeably different and significantly less appealing. I observed that it left a tinny, unpleasant aftertaste.
Upon closer examination, it became clear that Colgate-Palmolive had changed the flavor and formula of its Colgate Total Toothpaste. They announced the new formula with some fanfare via their “close-talker” Superbowl ad featuring Luke Wilson in February 2019.
The new “Colgate Total SF” contains stannous fluoride as its active ingredient. Prior to the reformulation, Colgate Total contained the active ingredients triclosan and sodium fluoride. Further investigation unearthed two uncomfortable facts:
1. Other consumers had reported experiencing a negative aftertaste with toothpastes containing Colgate Total’s new active ingredient stannous fluoride; and
2. Triclosan, the prior active ingredient in Colgate Total toothpaste, was banned in topical soaps and is reportedly linked to health risks, including potentially contributing to gut inflammation, potentially altering the gut microbiome, potentially inhibiting thyroid functionality and contributing to overall bacteria resistance.
Which prompted two immediate thoughts:
1. How can I find a toothpaste that does not contain stannous fluoride as the active ingredient? and
2. Why was I using a Triclosan-laced toothpaste for the past decade?
I don’t have a good answer for why I didn’t dig deeper into the active ingredients in my toothpaste of choice. But, after examining a great deal of toothpaste labels for their active ingredients, I do have a good answer to the first question.
Here is a list of toothpastes that contain Sodium Fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate as the active ingredient, rather than stannous fluoride.
Toothpastes that do not contain stannous fluoride
Below are several options for toothpastes that do not contain stannous fluoride as an active ingredient as alternatives to Colgate Total (but still contain fluoride). Instead, the toothpastes below contain either the anti-cavity agent Sodium Fluoride or Sodium Monofluorophosphate. Think of these as a small stocking stuffer for the holidays or a thoughtful gift for a dad that’s fed up with the new Colgate Total Toothpaste formula.
Sick of personal care brands “that preyed on fear and shame” and “filled with unfriendly ingredients,” Craig Dubitsky founded Hello Products to make “naturally-friendly,” products for your mouth. Hello CEO Lauri Kien Kotcher captains the small, independent company, which offers a range of toothpastes and oral care products sourced from ingredients variously including charcoal, aloe vera, coconut oil and farm-grown mint. hello’s naturally whitening fluoride toothpaste with farm grown mint and tea tree is a good option to #brushhappy. Browse hello’s line of toothpastes at Amazon, though beware that some of hello’s other toothpaste products do not contain fluoride.
Active ingredient: sodium monofluorophosphate
$0.84 per ounce ($3.99 / 4.7 ounce tube via Target)
Tom’s of Maine
Kate and Tom Chappell founded Tom’s of Maine in 1970 with just $5,000 from Kennebunk, Maine. Today the company is a multi-million dollar business owned by Colgate-Palmolive (though the Chappells retain a minority stake). Tom’s of Maine has several fluoride toothpastes in its collection that do not contain stannous fluoride, including Cavity Protection Natural Toothpaste in peppermint or spearmint (also available at Amazon). Beware that some of Tom’s toothpastes do not contain fluoride.
Active ingredient: sodium monofluorophosphate
Made in the USA (in Sanford, Maine)
$0.79 per ounce ($4.31 / 5.5 ounces via Walmart.com)
Arm & Hammer
Entrepreneurs John Dwight and Austin Church laid the foundation for Arm & Hammer when they began using sodium bicarbonate in their kitchen in 1846. The two formed competing companies, which were merged under the Church Dwight Co. in 1896. More than a century later, in addition to baking soda, Arm & Hammer manufactures a line of toothpastes. Arm & Hammer’s Advance White Extreme Whitening with Stain Defense in Fresh Mint is a solid toothpaste option without stannous fluoride.
Active ingredient: sodium fluoride
Made in the USA of U.S. and foreign materials.
$0.75 per ounce ($4.59 / 6 ounce tube via Target)
Owned by Procter and Gamble, Crest + Scope makes a mint-flavored Complete Whitening Toothpaste that does not contain stannous fluoride. Check out this value pack via Amazon. Careful: Other Crest toothpastes, including Pro-Health, use stannous fluoride as an active ingredient.
Active ingredient: Sodium Fluoride
Made in (unknown)
$0.87 per ounce ($9.49 / 2 pack of 5.4 ounce tubes via Target)
Owned by GSK, Aquafresh has been around since 1979. (It was the toothpaste of choice in my household for a while growing up in the 1980s.) Aquafresh’s Extreme Clean Pure Breath Fluoride Toothpaste for Cavity Protection is available at Amazon.com and is one of several of their toothpastes that do not contain stannous fluoride.
Active ingredient: Sodium Fluoride
Made in (unknown)
($4.80 / 2 count of 5.6 ounce tubes)
From Maine, Burt Shavitz and Roxanne Quimby came up with the idea for Burt’s Bees in 1984. The company has evolved from a candle-making company to a multinational personal care company that was purchased by the Clorox Company in 2007. Burt’s Bees Clean & Fresh Mint Medley Toothpaste (via Amazon) contains Fluoride and is flavored with essential oil Mint Medley.
$1.06 per ounce ($4.99 / 4.7 ounce tube via Target)
If you’re looking for more grooming products, check out our quick review of Cremo’s barber grade hair styling cream.
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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