Have you ever stocked up on household and personal care items during a great sale? At some point, we all have probably done this to save a few dollars on commonly used items such as shampoo, bar soap, paper towels, toothpaste and other necessities. When it comes to oral hygiene products though, have you ever wondered about how long they might keep while awaiting use?
Does Toothpaste Expire?
In short, toothpaste and mouthwashes do indeed have a shelf life and expiration dates, especially if you are using a fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash containing fluoride. To the surprise of many, The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) classifies toothpaste in the same category as cosmetics, which is required to include a list of actives as you can see on the back of a box or the tube of toothpaste. Under these regulations, they are also required to list an expiration date, usually found along the crimped edge of the tube and also on the box. Toothpastes also carrying the seal of approval by the ADA (American Dental Association) are required to list expiration dates.
Expiration of toothpaste comes about 2 years after manufacture date, which might also be found on the box or tube of toothpaste in the form of a number sequence. Manufactures of food and product often use a 3-digit number from 001-365 which represents the day of the year, usually preceded by the last digit of the year. For example: a product made on March 1, 2015 would be coded 3015, for example). If your toothpaste contains a number sequence rather than a clear date, you can often decipher the numbers similarly to determine when the product was made.
Beyond the listed expiration date, there can be loss of effectiveness and stability in the active ingredients, such as fluoride. Active ingredients as well as flavor can also crystallize and separate causing not only an inconsistent product, but like one that doesn’t taste or feel too pleasant. Most brands have a shelf life of at least two years, so if it’s a toothpaste you and your family use regularly, go ahead and stock up on a few tubes, just take note of the expiration dates, especially if you use a recommended fluoride toothpaste.
Is it dangerous to use expired toothpaste?
While it isn’t advised, using an expired toothpaste or mouthwash will not harm you given the expiration is within reasonable time. We wouldn’t suggest using a couple years post expiration! The toothpaste or wash just might not taste or feel as smooth or consistent as it would if it was within the shelf life span. The concern is really in the effectiveness of the active ingredients such as fluoride and triclosan. So go ahead and get an extra tube or two next time your favorite toothpaste or mouthwash is on sale. Chances are that with regular use, those extras will be gone long before expiration. As always, happy brushing (and flossing)!