Top Dentists 2014

The Brush-Off: A Toothpaste Battle Royale

How to choose?

By Katharine Shilcutt April 30, 2014 Published in the May 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

The cashier at Target regarded the black, neon-accented boxes with suspicion. “I never heard of these before,” she said, eyeing Crest’s three new flavors with distaste, particularly Be Inspired Vanilla Mint Spark. “This does not sound good,” she declared, placing it gingerly into our bag along with Crest Be Dynamic Lime Spearmint Zest, Crest Be Adventurous Mint Chocolate Trek, and 11 more tubes of toothpaste. 

The purchase begged explanation. “We’re doing a toothpaste taste-test at work,” we said. “Better you than me,” she replied, chuckling. We lugged our bag back to the office, eager to see which would be the primo paste to Houstonia staffers.

Some initial observations: the most expensive tube, Rembrandt, at $6.99, was also the smallest at 2.6 ounces. The best buy was Aim, a 6-ounce tube of which costs just 87 cents. 

As for the taste rankings: Aim, the cheapest, was also the office’s third-favorite toothpaste. Meanwhile, oft-derided, all-natural Tom’s of Maine, the toothpaste of choice for hippies across America, actually tested quite a bit better than either Crest (classic), Aquafresh, or a slew of other mass-market toothpastes. And that’s despite being mostly composed (we think) of twigs and berries. 

And those Be flavors? It turns out that while the world may not need a mint chocolate–flavored paste, it seems to want one anyway, especially if it tastes as good as a Thin Mint. Crest’s Be Adventurous got the highest ranking across the board from our panel of tasters. Meanwhile, the lime-flavored Be Dynamic fell toward the middle, and the vanilla-flavored Be Inspired was among the worst-ranking entries—just as the Target cashier (sort of) predicted. 

Below, the scores of the toothpastes we tested (out of a possible 40), along with tasting notes from the peanut gallery.

33 Crest Be Adventurous ($4.99)
“I want to swallow this.” 
27 Close-Up ($1.97)
 “Cinnamon, yummy.”
26 Aim ($0.87)
25 Colgate ($2.99)
“The platonic ideal of toothpaste.”
22 Crest Be Dynamic ($4.99)
“Good stuff.” 
21 Tom’s of Maine ($3.84)
“Naturally delicious.”
20 Aquafresh ($1.50) 
“Pedestrian, but I’m fine with that.”
20 Crest ($2.94)
“Like mama used to serve!” 
19 Ultrabrite ($0.97)
 “Middling at best.”
18 Sensodyne ($4.89)
“Tastes like bad dental floss”
17 Crest Be Inspired ($4.99)
“Like brushing with pudding.”
12 Arm & Hammer ($3.24)
“Baking soda nightmare.”
12 Listerine ($3.98)
11 Rembrandt ($6.99)
“Model airplane glue.”
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