Does Toothpaste Expire? What those Dates Really Mean

Today, we are going to answer the question that many have thought about but never had the time to research; does toothpaste expire?  Whether you are someone who pays close attention to the expiration date on the products that you purchase, especially the one on your tube of toothpaste or if you believe that those dates are a simply a method used by marketers and toothpaste manufacturing companies to get you to throw out that tube sooner than necessary so you must make another purchase faster than needed, this post will answer the question, does toothpaste expire?

What would you say if we told you that placing expiration dates on toothpaste packages are not legally required in some states?  This can create confusion when it comes to deciding what should you do with a half-used tube once the expiration date has been reached, does toothpaste expire or is this just another way for manufacturers to make an extra buck at the consumers expense?

Before we can answer this question, it is important to understand what the dates on your tube of toothpaste signify.  Without this understanding, you will not be able to choose the product that will last the longest and provide the desired effect you are shopping for.  So, sit back, relax, and get ready to learn everything you didn’t know about your favorite brand of toothpaste!

Expiration Dates Explained – What Those Dates Really Mean

The reality is that the expiration date on your toothpaste should be used more as a guideline than a hard and fast rule.  The truth is, there is a possibility that the effectiveness of the toothpaste can be diminished once the expiration has been reached.  Diminished, not useless, this distinction is understandably important for those of us who must count our pennies or simply hate waste.  Knowing the answer to the question; does toothpaste expire can help you make informed shopping decisions that will help you save money in the long run and help you take care of your family’s oral health.  Below, we will explain the meanings and purposes of those dates that you see on all the packaging of the products you purchase so you have a better understanding.

Sell by Date

The purpose of the “sell by” date is to notify the seller of the product when it should be removed from the shelves.  If they chose not to remove the item, in this case, toothpaste, from their selves they are not breaking any laws, rules, or regulations, however, the fact they are kept on the shelves can tell you a lot about the mindset of seller.

Since there are no legal ramifications if the managers decide to keep them on the shelves, taking the time to look at this date is important before you place it in your cart.  When you are shopping, checking the sell by date will help you know how fresh the product is.

Always be beware when you find your favorite brand on sale, stop and take the time to check that date, some store chains will sell the item on sale to get them off the shelves, and to make up for the fact that the date has passed.

Best If Used by or Use by Date

This date is simply meant to inform the purchaser when the toothpaste will work the best.  After time, the chemicals in the paste will begin to breakdown and therefore runs the risk of not working as well as it did when it was fresh.  You may notice a difference in the taste, its texture, or color, but does not necessarily mean there are harmful effects after using it.

Expires On or EXP

The expires on, EXP, or expiration date, lets the consumer know when the product should no longer be used.  However, there are exceptions to this rule, and toothpaste happens to be one of them.  We will explain this further later in this post.

Carry Coded or Closed Dates

This code informs the consumer of the date the product was packaged/manufactured.  This number can be quite confusing to figure out, they normally will use a three-digit code (001 to 365) the is used to identify the day of the year if was packaged/manufactured.  They will sometimes include a fourth digit that represents the last digit of the year.

Is Toothpaste the Exception to the Expiration Date Guideline?

The professionals answer to the question does toothpaste expire? Is yes, but it is not correctly reflected on the date that is listed on the packaging.

Does Toothpaste Expire

According to Colgate: “its toothpastes are good for 12 to 18 months past the expiration date (which is two years after manufacture), beyond which there may be some loss in fluoride stability, ingredients may separate out or crystallize, and flavors may diminish. Toothpaste past its expiration date will not harm you, though. Other companies advise tossing toothpaste after the date, which is in their best interest since that increases sales.”

According to Dr. Joel H. Berg, Chairman of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Seattle, Representative of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry; “using expired toothpaste is not dangerous, but there is a potential loss of efficacy.  It depends on how long past the expiration it is.”

According to additional dentists and experts from the FDA; “there is no serious risk in using expired toothpaste. However, you may benefit less from the fluoride content, meaning less protection from tooth decay.”

Toothpaste is an exception to the expiration date guideline, there are no harmful side effects of using it although you may not be receiving the protection you prefer.

Decoding the Dates

Although there are not currently any legal requirements regarding expiration dates, the American Dental Association (ADA) does require that an expiration date be placed on all toothpaste that contains fluoride.  This date is generally two years after the manufacturing date.  This is because the fluoride in the toothpaste will begin to break down within that time frame. The fluoride in toothpaste binds to tooth enamel, providing a protective covering for the tooth that defends against cavities that are caused by acids.

Along with the ADA, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) categorizes toothpaste as a cosmetic, requiring that ingredients used to make the product be listed on the packaging as well as requiring an expiration date being listed.  Once again, to ensure that you understand how effective the toothpaste you are currently using is.

Let’s take a second to think about that;

  • Depending on the shelving practices of your store of choice it is possible that the toothpaste you purchase is older than you expect or may want to purchase, answering does toothpaste expire, can get a little complicated.
  • Let’s say that the expiration date is 2018
  • That means that the toothpaste was manufactured in 2016
  • That means if you purchase it in 2017 it has been stored for one year
  • This means;
  • That you have one year to use it to receive the full effectiveness of the product
  • Now you can add two years to the expiration date since you now know that it is safe, which brings us 2020 (remember, you will not necessarily get the best results by this time)
  • So, technically speaking, toothpaste can be used for a total of four years from its manufacturing date, with the risk of not receiving full oral protection

Now, for some, you may be thinking this is just too much for something as simple as toothpaste.  Well, you have a point, but the purpose behind toothpaste is to ensure that you are purchasing a product that is providing oral health maintenance that reduces the risk of tooth decay and other harmful oral diseases.  Understanding how these dates work and how time effects the product you are paying for, will help you make an informed decision in your purchasing habits.

So, for those who prefer to follow the expiration date as a hard and fast rule instead of a guideline, the answer will be quite simple, throw out the tube once it has reached its expiration date and buy a new one to ensure that you are receiving the products full benefits.

For those who can’t tolerate waste, or feeling as if they are throwing their money away you have an additional two years to use it up, understanding that you may not be receiving the full benefits you are looking for.  But don’t despair, if you are reluctant to throw away a half-full tube of toothpaste but don’t necessarily want to use it for oral hygiene purposes, then you can use it for;

  • Cleaning your bathroom sinks
  • Removing odor from your hands
  • Removing crayon from your walls
  • Cleaning the iron, you use for clothes
  • Removing scuffs from leather

So, there you have it, even if you prefer not to use your toothpaste after its expiration date you can still get use out if for the household tasks that have been listed above.  Waste not want not!

How Does Toothpaste Expire?

Some signs that your toothpaste is no longer effective include:

  • The paste has separated
  • More intense or loss of flavor
  • Inability to get the paste out of the tube
  • The paste is not foaming in your mouth correctly

If you have noticed any of these changes in your toothpaste it’s time to throw it away or repurpose what you will be using it for since you will not be getting any of the benefits of oral health and hygiene.  The choice is yours!

Does Toothpaste Expire?  Answered!

So, the answer to the question, does toothpaste expire?  Is yes!  It is just not accurately represented on the packaging, using it after it expiration date is not necessarily harmful to your health, although your oral hygiene regime may not be as effective as it was before its expiration date.  Playing close attention to the expiration date on the packaging can help you decide which tube to place in your shopping cart, finding the package with the oldest expiration displayed will allow you more time to use it before it expires.  Using the expiration, sell by, best if used by, and the code dates that are placed on the packaging will guide you in choosing the right package for your toothpaste purchase, and if your toothpaste does end up expiring before you are able to use it all, you can always save it and use it for household tasks.

For consumers that buy in bulk this is very good news indeed, now that you understand the dates and their meanings you will be able to purchase away and stock up to your heart’s content, or if you prefer, cut down on the amount of toothpaste you normally purchase so it won’t go to waste, either way, you are now an expert when it comes to the purchase of toothpaste!

Remember to pay attention the dates that are listed on the package so you can get what you are looking for!