Raw Gums and White Teeth: The Ultimate Toothpaste Tasting Notes

By Alyse Borkan  |  Aug 5, 2014
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“A person with increasing knowledge and sensory education may derive infinite enjoyment from wine toothpaste.”  Ernest Hemingway 

Unfortunately, there’s no in-house sommelier waiting for you in the oral hygiene aisle at Duane Reade. There’s no one there to help you parse the different vintages and flavor-profiles. So what happens if you’re looking for an earthy, rustic paste with legs? Or a dry, refined nouveau gel with a nice bouquet? How are you supposed to know which floss to pair with?

We’re here to help. We held a toothpaste tasting with highly qualified judges, in an attempt to impartially examine and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a whole host of different pastes.

Fourteen varietals were tasted, including several Crest and Colgate options, as well as an organic one (Tom’s of Maine), and a fancy one (Marvis), among others.

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Nine judges were selected based on stringent criteria: 1. Are you a human with a mouth? 2. Do you regularly brush the teeth in that mouth? The procedure was simple: brush your teeth, spit into the communal spit bucket, cleanse your palate with peanut butter, repeat. Fourteen times. Judges were asked to fill out a tasting card, assigning point values on an arbitrary scale and writing notes on appearance, nose, character, and finish.

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It seems super gross, but peanut butter actually works as a toothpaste palate cleanser. If you ever really, desperately need to get the taste of toothpaste out of your mouth for some reason, this is your best bet.

We’re not amateurs. Brushing your teeth fourteen times in a row sucks, and may actually be hazardous to your health. You shouldn’t do this. Ever. It’s not quite as pleasant as a wine tasting. One judge dropped out after only three toothpastes because it was too much. Another noted that “everything just feels bad” halfway through the tasting. “It feels like the sides of my tongue are bleeding,” a third said. Weirdly, we were not blessed with permanent fresh breath after the tasting. Instead, our mouths felt raw and everything tasted strange for a solid 24 hours. Needless to say, results were undoubtedly affected by the physical, grueling trauma of fourteen straight brushings.

Gentlemen, start your Sonicares.

1. Pepsodent Complete Care

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Despite the fact that the poorly named Pepsodent sounded like a “diarrhea name” to some, this “diaper rash cream” “really opens the nostrils.” One of the more basic pastes on the list, one judge gave it a nearly perfect score, noting that this “diner mint puree” is “pleasant and inoffensive.” We think Pepsodent pairs well with an everyday ribbon floss, or a 3D whitening mouthwash. Score: 9/10 Gold Teeth

2. AIM Multi-Benefit

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At only one dollar, nobody expected this to be our second place finisher. It made the judges “nostalgic for childhood.” Despite the fact that one judge noted that it “tastes like it will go sour in five minutes,” it scored consistently well across the board. (Honestly, this result might just be because it was one of first toothpastes we tasted. The judges were still excited and optimistic. Things changed quickly.) Recommended as a fine table toothpaste. Score: 8.5/10 Gold Teeth

3. Colgate Total

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This safe, classic toothpaste “smells like a warm hug,” with buttery, chewy fumes on the nose. And even though one judge was confused about why he was “brushing his teeth with Elmer’s glue,” and another thought it somehow tasted like a pumpkin soy latte from Starbucks, Colgate Total was found to be, overall, “mild and traditional.” Score: 8.25/10 Gold Teeth

4. Colgate MaxFresh Intense

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“Reminiscent of glitter nails,” MaxFresh set off two very different reactions among the judges. Half thought that the “mint on steroids” flavor-profile was too much; one judge asked “is this what rabies feels like?” after brushing with it. But the other half found it exhilarating. One was so excited by the extreme mintiness he yelled, “Space Jams!” which, we think, is an exclamation of happiness. Score:  7.5/10 Gold Teeth

5. Arm & Hammer Advance White

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Advance White “looks like household cleaner,” and could probably make your toilet bowl shine like Scrubbing Bubbles. One judge asked if their factory is in a desert, and while no one could tell what brought about that question, it felt poignant at the time. This astringent, tannic paste would do well after a particularly sloppy meal. Score: 6.5/10 Gold Teeth

6. Aquafresh Cavity Protection

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This red, white, and blue paste is the “unofficial toothpaste of America,” according to one judge. And while seven of nine judges called it “patriotic,” the company that manufactures it is actually based in England. Its nose was reminiscent of  “an overwhelming mint factory that has been closed,” and some judges were reminded of their “musty grandmas.” Score: 6.25/10 Gold Teeth

7. Crest Complete (Herbal Mint)

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The only toothpaste tested that doesn’t come in a tube, the herbaceous Crest Complete confused a few of the judges, with responses like “wtf this isn’t toothpaste” and “this is like putting a manilla folder in my mouth.” One judge said that it “looks like floss,” but never explained what he meant by that. We think it would go nicely with real floss. Score: 6/10 Gold Teeth

8. Tom’s Whole Care Peppermint

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This austere, organic paste had notes of “sour milk” and “granola” on the nose. Tom’s pastoral character was greeted with indifference from the judges, overall, with several asking “who even cares anymore?” Score: 5/10 Gold Teeth

9. Crest Be Dynamic

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The flamboyant, lime-spearmint flavor reminded judges of “those glow-in-the-dark stars you had on your ceiling as a kid,” “algae and seafoam,” and “old appliances.” But really, the unctuous, expressive Be Dynamic wasn’t half as gross as expected: “I was expecting the worst, but this is just meh.” Score: 4.5/10 Gold Teeth

10. Crest ProHealth Healthy Fresh

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While the intellectually stimulating Crest ProHealth’s “milky, reflective” appearance was “alluring” to some, it caused “that summertime sadness” in others. It has a slimy mouthfeel, and was “sharp on the gums.” ProHealth has the honorable distinction of being the only toothpaste tasted to receive a negative score from a judge. Score: 4/10 Gold Teeth

11. Marvis

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Warning: Extreme toothpaste consumption may have psychotropic effects. At least, that’s the only reason we can think of why one judge thought Marvis smelled like cigarettes, and another noted that it “does not rub into skin.” It’s “slug-like” appearance offended some. Overall, it was found to just be “really, really lame.” We think Marvis, at best, would make for an adequate after-dinner toothpaste. Score: 3.5/10 Gold Teeth

12. Crest Be Adventurous

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This awkward “cookie-crisp of toothpaste” makes your mouth feel dirtier, according to several judges. It’s mint-chocolate flavored, and “feels like you’re brushing your teeth with ice cream.” Despite its velvety mouthfeel, its “Choco Taco” character is “really, really gross.” We recommend pairing Crest Be Adventurous with any toothpaste that actually cleans your mouth. Score: 2/10 Gold Teeth

13. Sensodyne ProNamel

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The steely Sensodyne ProNamel is “strangely aggro.” It feels like “a million pennies” on the tongue. The cloying brightness was “intimidating” and “super nasty.” Judges were in “yuck town,” and wished desperately to get out. Score: 1/10 Gold Teeth

14. Sensodyne Original  

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Sensodyne Original’s terroir is clear: “Boca Raton.” This “spicy mint butter” is “not sexy,” and would do well with some extra time in the barrel. One judge put it simply, saying that he “hates everything about this.” We suggest you use this in blend to balance its volatile, unrounded flavor, and avoid tasting it on its own. Score: 0.5/10 Gold Teeth

— Compiled and edited by Josh Segal

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