Update 23 Dec 2020: This is one of my most popular posts ever. It looks like I’m very much not alone! I’ve added info about n-ha to the Carifree description. I’ve also added my review of Kingfisher Fennel and Tom’s of Maine Strawberry Fluoride rinse.
My latest stuck-at-home low-stakes project is finding a good non-mint toothpaste with fluoride. The extreme flavor of mint toothpaste makes me balk at brushing; what if I want to eat or drink or sleep not long afterwards? Mint sometimes is a sensory nightmare for me, so I’ll avoid it especially when I’m already stressed out. Not brushing is already easy enough to do when stuck at home without a routine and without external motivation to de-stink your mouth for others’ benefit. Having nice-tasting toothpaste — or even just not painfully-tingly toothpaste — means brushing more regularly.
Here’s the tl;dr list of not-overly-minty fluoridated toothpastes that I recommend.
- Top Overall Pick: Twice Twilight
Though its flavor is described as “peppermint with vanilla and lavender”, it’s incredibly gentle and pleasant with very little mint. Available online or at select CVS locations.
- Truly mint-free, for special concerns: Carifree CTX4 Gel 1100
A unique re-mineralizing formula that keeps your teeth plaque-free for an almost disconcerting amount of time. Both the Citrus and Grape flavors are fully mint-free. Available at multiple online outlets.
- A mint-free, not-too-sweet kids’ toothpaste: Tom’s of Maine Outrageous Orange Mango
I wasn’t impressed by it but others seem to love it. Available at some retail stores and online. Be sure to get a fluoride rinse if you’re not a very young child and you plan to use this as your primary toothpaste.
- Best traditional adult toothpaste: Colgate Active Lemon & Salt Healthy White Toothpaste
Made for the Indian market, it’s a pretty standard toothpaste but without the harsh mint. I found the lemon to be pleasant and the mint to be almost not there; I couldn’t taste the salt much at all. Available online if you’re outside of the Indian market.
- Most interesting flavor: Kingfisher Fennel Toothpaste
Don’t buy this British toothpaste unless you know you love fennel. I love fennel, so I love this. Available online if you’re outside of Britain.
- Easiest to find: Arm & Hammer
Though I’ve not tried it, enough people I know have recommended the brand to me that I feel fine about endorsing it. The lines specifically mentioned to me were Arm & Hammer Essentials, Arm & Hammer PeroxiCare, and Arm & Hammer Sensitive. You can find it pretty much anywhere toothpaste is sold.
Note: If you are concerned about the vegan and cruelty-free status of toothpaste, see Ethical Elephant for a list of brands. The list should include Twice as it’s both cruelty-free and vegan. Kingfisher is also listed as fully vegan on their site.
Far too many details regarding my toothpaste quest and experiences, including the ones I recommend you avoid, are below the fold.
The year I was first allowed to decide what kind of toothpaste I wanted to use all by myself and all for myself was 2007. The very first tube of toothpaste I bought came in a delicious citrus flavor. I loved it. I got the citrus mouthwash, too.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was being ruined for life for all the other toothpastes.
I had stumbled into that strangely small yet oh-so-adult decision about personal oral care during what turned out to be a relatively narrow window. A few mainstream brands made non-mint toothpastes with fluoride for adult for about a decade, in varieties like citrus, vanilla, or cinnamon.
Then, they were all discontinued. Lack of demand, the brands said. Yet I know that I’m not the only adult chasing that not-having-my-mouth-burned high. There are petitions and tweets and blog posts and forum rants from people eager to buy non-mint toothpastes.
It’s not all talk, either. The niche toothpaste market is absolutely exploding right now. I found out because Facebook and Instagram keep showing me ads for bougie dental products. This stuff comes in packaging so chic that the tubes and vials and tubs rival the fanciness of the very skincare that, I suspect, led the social media sites to show me the ads in the first place.
And oh, the flavors! There are spices like chai, neroli, lemongrass, neem, myrrh, anise, fennel, clove, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom. Juicy fruit notes like peach, pineapple, mango, cranberry, and watermelon. Florals like juniper, daisy, hibiscus, jasmine, and rose. They sound less like mundane toothpaste I’m forced to use to keep my teeth and more like delightfully fancy beverages. Some even come in pellet or tab form, which is less messy and involves less packaging than tubes. There was a luxe Japanese brand for a minute that sold no fewer than 28 fancy varieties.
Alas, these niche brands make a point of not including fluoride to their toothpastes. So the ads mock me as I scroll and lead me to look up toothpaste, which in turn means I see more ads.
And how much have I been looking up toothpaste lately! Finding currently-available non-mint toothpastes that have fluoride is challenging, since most fluoridated toothpastes don’t advertise themselves as such (fluoride is considered standard). Meanwhile, their very lack of fluoride is a selling point for the aforementioned hippie toothpastes. You know, the ones that come in all those great flavors.
I don’t give up easily, though. I crowd-sourced and researched and asked around and dug into it, even trying out some of the options. If you don’t want to blast your face-hole with aggressive mint, but do want to have effective tooth care, you’ve got a few options, which I’ve arranged from what seems to me to be the least fussy, all the way to options with multiple steps.
Keep in mind that none of these options is ever going to be as cost-effective as just getting whatever Costco has or whatever’s on sale with a coupon. You definitely want to use the amount you actually need rather than what looks good in ads when you’re spending this much money, time, and effort on a basic daily product.
Not all minty toothpastes are so harshly minty that you might as well be brushing with Listerine. It’s not even that hard to find, you just have to know what you’re looking for.
I’ve used Twice Early Bird, the only bougie toothpaste advertised to me that actually has fluoride in it, and it’s fairly gentle and mild. You can find it online or at CVS.
As a general recommendation, mainstream brands sometimes will issue a toothpaste intended to be used at night. The mint flavor is lighter in those lines. The packaging tends to be darker and include a moon or bed logo. They go by names like nighttime, bedtime, twilight, after dark, or evening.
Sensitive tooth formulas tend to be gentler rather than burn. My spouse has used Sensodyne for years. Whenever I’ve borrowed it, it’s never burned me as much as the regular stuff, especially the varieties not specifically advertised as mint. You can find it anywhere. We get it at Costco.
Other leads for mint toothpaste that doesn’t overwhelm:
- Transitional kids’ toothpastes, intended to take older kids from the sweet flavors of childhood to the harsh mint of the grown-up world. One example of is Tom’s of Maine Wicked Cool Mild Mint, available at Target or online. Depending on its fluoride content, you may want to follow up this type of paste with a fluoride rinse (see below).
- Arm and Hammer. Multiple people I know have recommended the brand as effective without being harsh. The lines specifically mentioned to me were Arm & Hammer Essentials, Arm & Hammer PeroxiCare, and Arm & Hammer Sensitive. You can find it pretty much anywhere toothpaste is sold.
- If you’ve ever had any kind of oral piercing, you probably know about Biotene mouthwash. There’s also Biotene Toothpaste. You can find it at most drugstores or online.
Lots of toothpastes intended for kids are fluoridated and come in fun flavors. The downside is that they’re often really, really sweet and come in flavors I loathe, like bubblegum or generic fake-tasting “fruit”. If you like that kind of thing, though, there’s nothing wrong with using kids’ toothpaste as an adult. It has slightly less fluoride, but that’s unlikely to cause much of an issue. Just be sure it’s not the toddler/starter kind, which has no fluoride. You may also want to use a fluoride rinse (see below) since the children’s stuff has less fluoride.
A repeat recommendation I got was for Tom’s of Maine Outrageous Orange Mango. I purchased it online, as no retailer near me had it. I was disappointed by it. The thin formula doesn’t foam up very much nor does it do a great job of cleaning. On top of that, it’s made with several acidic fruit juices, which makes me question how healthy it is for brushing adult teeth. I won’t be using it again.
Other leads on kids’ toothpastes that aren’t bubblegum or fake-fruit flavored:
- Tom’s of Maine Silly Strawberry or Tom’s of Maine Fruitilicious (just be sure it’s the fluoridated kind, as ToM makes fluoride-free versions of the same flavors). It can be found at some retail stores (you can check Instacart for availability in your area) or online.
- Tanner’s Tasty Paste comes in chocolate or vanilla. It’s exclusively found online via Amazon or eBay.
- Hello Blue Raspberry, Hello Watermelon, or Hello Wild Strawberry. Find it at Target or online.
I do not care for the burn of cinnamon in mints or toothpaste. Some people do.
- Tom’s of Maine Cinnamon Clove can be found online.
- Crest Complete Whitening Plus Cinnamon Expressions is available at some stores (check Instacart) or online.
The White Whales of Toothpaste
Here it is, gentlepersons. The toothpastes you and I want, those holy-grail the white-whale varieties: Not-Primarily-Mint Non-Cinnamon Toothpastes with Fluoride for Adults, tested and reviewed for your edification.
Caveat about my reviews: My oral care habits and preferences might not match yours.
- Once a day, I floss, then brush with a circular Oral-B electric toothbrush fitted with inexpensive knock-off heads I get on eBay, and then scrape my tongue. I don’t often brush at night and it’s never caused me problems. If you brush more or less often, your experience of a toothpaste’s efficacy will differ. If you don’t floss and tongue-scrape daily, and/or if you use a manual toothbrush, you’re likely relying more on your toothpaste for freshening power than I do.
- I don’t use mouthwash very often, maybe once a month. If you like to use it as part of your oral care routine, you won’t need your toothpaste to be as freshening.
- Thanks to a combination of genetics, electric brushing, luck, and excellent childhood dental care, I have good teeth. Though my dentist visits are short and uneventful, I do go at least once a year (twice if my insurance is in order). If your teeth are more prone to issues than mine, and/or you haven’t/don’t go to the dentist as much as I do, you probably need more out of your toothpaste and other oral care products than I do.
- I can’t attest to the whitening power of any product because I actively avoid thinking about tooth whiteness. I generally avoid whitening products because I care about the long-term integrity of my dental enamel more than I do about having a perfectly-white smile.
Top Overall Pick: Twice Twilight
Twice is explicitly anti-pseudoscience (!) and pro-social. Thought it’s not the cheapest, you can buy a small size to try it first and cancel the subscription if you don’t like it. As mentioned above, as far as mint toothpastes go, the Early Bird mint version pretty good.
The Twilight variant, intended to be a nighttime toothpaste, is a true White Whale. Though it’s advertised as “bold peppermint, smooth vanilla and a touch of lavender”, the mint is barely there. It works like a high-quality version upgrade to standard toothpaste, a smooth formula that foams up nicely when you brush and leaves your mouth feeling clean but not minty.
My only complaint is that I’d likely eventually get tired of it, since vanilla and lavender are a little boring as far as flavors go. Add the fact that my partner’s partner is very allergic to lavender, and Twice Twilight can’t be the one for me. It is my top overall pick regardless.
For Special Concerns: CariFree CTx4 Gel 1100 Citrus
I discovered CariFree CTx4 Gel 1100 when I was looking into alternative options for my husband’s sensitive teeth and was excited to see a Citrus variety (it also comes in Grape in addition to regular old Mint). This stuff supposedly builds and re-mineralizes teeth using Nano-hydroxyapatite, aka n-ha, rather than soothing or numbing tooth pain the way Sensodyne and the like does. My spouse hasn’t used this for long enough yet, so I can’t speak to its longer-term effect on sensitivity. He does like it so far, so I tried it.
As far as the taste goes, it’s as mild as it comes, barely having any flavor at all, which rather disappointed my citrus hopes. Setting aside flavor, it’s as effective as it is odd. It feels kind of gritty and doesn’t foam up. It’s runny, but a little bit goes a very long way. So long, in fact, that I straight-up got distracted and forgot to brush the next day. My mouth may not have felt as freshened right after I brushed, but my teeth stayed smooth and plaque-free and my breath neutral for a whole extra day, as in I used it one morning, slept, woke up, and went through a full day with a clean mouth.
This wasn’t what I was looking for, but it filled a niche in my household regardless. If you have trouble brushing daily, are especially prone to cavities, and/or have sensitive teeth, this stuff could be very helpful to you. As far as I know, you can only get it online.
It’s not the only toothpaste out there that has re-mineralizing ingredients, although it’s the only one I’ve found in non-mint flavors; Apagard and Linhart both have similar active ingredient claims and are both described by reviewers as less harshly minty than other toothpastes. Could be worth a shot.
The Classic Citrus: Colgate Lemon & Salt
Finding Colgate Active Lemon & Salt Healthy White Toothpaste sent me down a bit of a non-US toothpaste rabbit-hole. Mint toothpaste obsession isn’t universal, it turns out. In India, and possibly other countries, it’s not difficult to find toothpaste flavors for adults that would be considered wacky in the US. The ones that tend to make it to US sellers, alas, tend to be the fluoride-free ones, imported for woo reasons.
I did find and try this one, though, and I like it. It’s your standard toothpaste in both formulation and feel, just lemon-forward instead of mint. I couldn’t really taste the salt, which is a plus. There’s nothing special about it other than the taste, which I’m enjoying enough to know I’ll finish the tube. If I drink something citrus-y after, the toothpaste enhances it.
To round this one out, here’s a tidbit on a toothpaste intended to be sold outside the US via a Facebook comment:
the previous drug product my company was working on was a toothpaste that had to be non-mint (because we wanted to market in China, where mint is not popular) and i did extensive formulation taste tests before making a watermelon-lavender-berry toothpaste
The Weirdly Good: Kingfisher Fennel
Update [23 Dec 2020]
I grew up chewing on fennel seeds after meals to freshen my breath and aid in digestion. As an adult, I’ve developed a real taste for fresh fennel bulb and fennel fronds in my food and as DIY tisane. I do a happy dance when fennel is available in my produce box. Saying “I love the taste of fennel” is a complete understatement. So, I absolutely had to try Kingfisher Fennel Toothpaste even though I’d already long published this post.
Kingfisher is a British brand. They make flouridated and non-flouridated (UGH) versions of their toothpastes, so if you’re buying it, be sure you get the right kind. Unlike some American brands that do this, theirs are helpfully color-coded so that you can immediately tell on sight if you’re getting the woo or non-woo type.
The texture is a little runnier and grittier than standard toothpastes, but it’s not bad. It left my teeth feeling a little odd, but again, not horrible. As for the taste? It tastes very much like fennel. If you like fennel, you will like it. Make sure that if you’re eating or drinking not long after brushing that whatever you consume doesn’t clash overmuch with fennel.
And now I’m semantically-satiated on “fennel”.
The Ones I Didn’t Try (And Why)
There’s at least one Korean Beauty toothpaste brand with some intriguing fluoridated flavors. Bonabits comes in Royal Lemon Herb, Noble Peach Blossom, and Velvet Rose Apple Balm. They sound as fancy and awesome as can be. At a whopping $15 per small-ish tube, though? Hmm. I’ll update with my impressions if I ever succumb to that expensive temptation.
The Hell No: Hell(N)o Activated Charcoal + Matcha
I hate the activated charcoal trend. It’s harmful as heck, especially now that people are using it as toothpaste. Activated charcoal is too abrasive to be very good for your teeth, isn’t that good of a whitener in the first place, and might even render the fluoride inactive — that is, if your trendy toothpaste even has fluoride in it to begin with.
I tried this toothpaste anyway. I’m not linking to it because that would be promoting my irresponsible choices. My reasons were: It’s available at Target, which has a good return policy. It has fluoride but is also made with a really popular and trendy ingredient. It’s from a brand people seem to love. The flavor intrigues me. One little attempt couldn’t hurt me, as I’m not on any medication that would be affected by exposure to activated charcoal.
My first disappointment of many with this stuff came when I picked it up at Target and looked at the box, which advertises its fancy mint sourcing. So is it just mint but with extra steps, along with being pseudoscience? Turns out that the one good thing I can say about it is that it’s not very minty. It’s runnier than regular toothpaste and looks pretty dark. It tastes strange, starting with not much of anything but ending with a gritty aftertaste of cheap matcha tea dregs mixed with charcoal. It foams up some, though not as much as a standard toothpaste. The cleaning and freshening power is middling.
Its relatively high rating on both the Target and Hello sites absolutely flabbergasts me. Who wants this? Who was it made for? If you want a charcoal toothpaste, you probably don’t care about science and therefore would be indifferent at best to the presence of fluoride. If you want a fluoridated toothpaste, you care about science and therefore wouldn’t want activated charcoal to render the fluoride useless. I feel really bad for the person in the reviews who got it because it has fluoride and she doesn’t have fluoride in her water source(!).
Please don’t get this stuff. If you really want to try it, I’ll mail what I have left to you (4 oz minus a couples of little dabs). I’m serious. I have no idea what to do with this tube of toothpaste that I will never willingly use again. Two tries and my teeth actively look worse.
One of my friends suggested using whatever hippie toothpaste you want, then adding a fluoride rinse at the end.
That defeats the purpose for me. If I get fancy toothpaste, I don’t want to replace its taste with another one afterwards. I also don’t want to add to the market for fluoride-free toothpaste. There’s a reason I refuse to link to any exclusively fluoride-free brands (and am annoyed about Tom’s of Maine and Hello and Kingfisher). I want to avoid supporting their anti-scientific stance against what is actually a very beneficial additive.
However, if a stance isn’t your priority and you want to use one of those toothpastes, or if you choose to use a children’s toothpaste, you’ll need a fluoride rinse. Here are your non-mint options, none of which I’ve tried.
- CariFree CTx3 Fluoride Rinse Anti-Cavity (Citrus)
From the same people who make the odd yet effective toothpaste I recommended above is a rinse meant to help strengthen teeth. Like the toothpaste, it’s probably helpful to those with sensitive teeth, who are especially cavity-prone, and/or have trouble brushing often enough. Available at various online outlets.
- Tom’s of Maine Silly Strawberry (children’s)
A non-mint rinse available at some Target locations and online.
- Hello Oral Care Kids Fluoride Rinse, Natural Wild Strawberry
This brand makes the toothpaste I don’t recommend, but this might work for you. Available at some Target locations and online.
Update [23 Dec 2020]: I found it on the clearance rack at the supermarket, so I tried it. I absolutely abhor overly-sweet fake strawberry flavor, but this isn’t that at all. It was actually very pleasant to use after brushing and left only a faint, slight taste that faded gently.
By happenstance, I did end up trying the fluoride-free toothpaste followed by a fluoride rinse method. At my local discount market, they had Schmidt’s Coconut & Lime Toothpaste along with Listerine Nightly Reset Mouthwash in Twilight Mint. The toothpaste didn’t foam up and was very thin. It did an average job of cleaning, but not of freshening. The flavor was very faint and nearly undetectable. I won’t be using it again. The rinse felt about a quarter as minty as regular Listerine, starting off very gentle and mild then peaking about ten minutes after I spat it out. So, as I suspected, it was mint with extra steps, but at least less painfully so.