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We have all had that moment where we looked at that carton of milk and looked at the expiration or sell-by date and wondered if it was still good. People across the country have found a container in their refrigerators at one time or another and tried to figure out how long it has been there. Many things have an expiration date on them, either because they go bad, or lose their effectiveness. Does that apply to toothpaste?

No matter if you roll your toothpaste tube neatly from the bottom up, or squeeze the daylights out of it to get one last brushful in the morning, you will eventually run out of toothpaste, and no matter how hard you squeeze, the tube will be empty. If that happens to you and you don’t have an extra tube on hand, or can’t use someone else’s toothpaste, you may be tempted to look in your luggage or travel kit, and use that tiny tube you bought just before you went on vacation a few years ago. But depending on when you bought it, that tube may not do you much good. That is because toothpaste does have a shelf life.

There are a number of different ingredients in toothpaste, Most contain a detergent to make the toothpaste foam and spread across your teeth. They will contain abrasives to help scrub your teeth, a humectant to keep the toothpaste from drying out, and chemicals to make sure that the toothpaste does not ooze off of your brush the moment it leaves the tube. There is usually some sort of flavoring, and of course, fluoride. For all of these to work, you need to use up your toothpaste within two years. Over time, the ingredients become less effective, and the ions in the fluoride begin to break down. Of course, if you are brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time, you should go through a tube of toothpaste much faster than two years, so in reality, that time frame applies to spare tubes you keep around the house, or the toothpaste that you may keep with your travel supplies or in a home or automotive emergency kit. However, you can shorten the life of your everyday toothpaste by leaving the cap off which can cause your toothpaste to dry out. It is a good idea to use toothpaste with a flip-top cap, since the cap is easier to keep track of, and it won’t fall on the floor and become contaminated. Storing your toothpaste in a cool place, such as your medicine cabinet or a drawer in the bathroom will help maintain its effectiveness.

If you have any questions about toothpaste, or any about any other aspect of oral hygiene in Fayetteville, North Carolina, our dentist, Dr. Kenneth Lewis will be happy to see you. If you would like to make an appointment at Lewis Family Dentistry, call (910) 488.0518 today.