Crest vs. Colgate - Which of these brands makes the best multi-care toothpaste? -

Crest Pro-Health vs. Colgate Total - What are the differences? | The formulation of Colgate Total has changed.

What's the best kind of toothpaste to use?

Multifunction dentifrices make a good choice.

With all the toothpaste options available, trying to figure out which one makes the best choice for you or your family may seem like a daunting task.

But with just a little information about ingredients and their effectiveness, you'll soon find out that some of the multi-care toothpaste products, like Crest Pro Health or Colgate Total, make the easy right choice for most people and their situation.

What should you look for in a toothpaste?

The ideal dentifrice would be one that can:

  • Clean teeth and help to remove staining, without the use of harsh abrasives.
  • Help to prevent tooth decay by way of the inclusion of fluoride.
  • Help to inhibit plaque and tartar accumulation.
  • Promote gum health by way of containing antibacterial compounds.
  • Help to prevent dental erosion (loss of hard tooth structure).
  • And when needed, help to settle down sensitive teeth.


That's what multifunction toothpastes offer.

While the list above may seem like a tall order, and possibly more individual benefits than you think you personally need, multi-protection toothpastes can accomplish most if not all of these goals.

Expect a multi-care to be just as effective as any other dentifrice.

We'll also mention that the best multifunction toothpastes are able to compare favorably with single-purpose "specialty" products.

That's easy enough to say because the claims of some specialty pastes are based on unproven proprietary ingredients. In comparison, the effectiveness of the multi-cares Crest Pro-Health and Colgate Total have been documented by research studies (as explained below).

What's in a name?

While looking at the realm of toothpaste products available, we've noticed that some manufacturers seem to have just tacked on the term "multi-care" to some of their product's names.

We're not so inclined to take these products seriously. Frequently they've been formulated where:

  • They provide anti-cavity protection by way of including fluoride in their formulation. (Probably the most commonly found toothpaste benefit.)
  • And then just one other function, like helping to create some type of stain removal, or desensitizing effect.


Addressing just two issues, as opposed to a possible six in our list, hardly seems to qualify as a true multi-care product. So watch what you buy, you could be shortchanging yourself.

The big two multi-care toothpastes: Crest vs. Colgate.

The two dominant brands in the category of multi-care toothpastes are Colgate Total and Crest Pro-Health. That's based on both market share, and more importantly to us, the amount of published research evidence there is about their effectiveness.

These two also fit the bill as being true multi-care products, in the sense that they provide benefits on a number of fronts.

The ADA Seal of Acceptance.

ADA Seal of Acceptance.

Look for this logo on the toothpaste you buy.

What research evidence is there?
The simplest way to convey the point that the effectiveness of these products is well documented is to state that they are the only ones that have earned the American Dental Association's (ADA) Seal of Acceptance for multiple toothpaste categories.
(These categories include: appropriate fluoride level, bad breath control, dental plaque and gingivitis control, tooth sensitivity control, enamel erosion control and surface stain removal).
How does a product earn the ADA seal?

To earn the Seal, and therefore be able to show it on their product's labeling (see picture), a manufacturer must submit data from research studies that have documented the effectiveness of their toothpaste.

We'll point out that no other brands/products have even come close to having received "acceptance" from the ADA for so many different categories. And as such, we feel it's easy enough to state that either Pro-Health or Total clearly makes the best choice in multi-care dentifrices.

Section references - Statista, ADA

Comparing Colgate Total vs. Crest Pro-Health.

At the time when we first created this page, the ingredients list of each of these products was significantly different.

Colgate Total's formulation was centered around the inclusion of the antibacterial agent triclosan. In comparison, Crest's Pro-Health product was centered on the use of stannous fluoride.

Triclosan is out.

At this point in time, Colgate has discontinued formulating their toothpaste with triclosan. One could speculate that they did so related to growing safety concerns associated with it.

(Use this link for further information about triclosan safety issues.)

The formulation of Pro-Health and Total are now fairly similar.

When Colgate dropped the inclusion of triclosan from their toothpaste, they replaced it with stannous fluoride. (To note this change, they now use the nomenclature "Total SF" in their branding.)

  • This is the same compound that Crest Pro-Health has always be formulated with. (Crest has a long history with this compound. They first used this compound in a toothpaste in the 1950's.)
  • Both products include stannous fluoride at of concentration of 0.454%.


That makes choosing much easier.

The current similarity of Pro-Health and Total means that choosing between them is much less of an issue. And after trying a tube of one, if you find there's something you don't like about it (taste, texture, packaging, etc..), then simply switch to the other and give it a try.

What are the documented benefits that a multi-care stannous fluoride toothpaste can provide?

Crest Pro-Health and Colgate Total.

For this section, we're going to rely mostly on information about Crest Pro-Health. That's because even though Colgate Total is now formulated with stannous fluoride too, Pro-Health has the much longer product history, and therefore its benefits more fully documented.

It would be our assumption that both products will prove to be essentially the same. But as a new formulation, it will take time before there is much published research involving Colgate Total.

We will note that their formulations are not identical (for example, the compounds used to stabilize the stannous fluoride) but we fail to see how Colgate could, using a very similar formulation, create a product that's vastly better than Crest's. Nor can we imagine how Colgate's knockoff would be lacking. Both of these companies have a reputation for producing effective quality products.

Stannous fluoride multi-care toothpaste benefits.

Crest Pro-Health Advanced Deep Clean Mint Toothpaste (possibly their most multi-care product variant) has earned the ADA Acceptance Seal for having:

  • An effective level of fluoride (cavity control).  |  Bad breath control.  |  Dental plaque and gingivitis control.  |  Tooth sensitivity control.  |  Enamel erosion Control (hard tooth structure loss).  |  Whitening teeth (removing surface staining).

Colgate Total Advanced Deep Clean Toothpaste (possibly their most multi-care product variant) has currently earned the ADA's Seal for all of these same functions with the exception of enamel erosion control. (Per the ADA's website at the time of this update.)

Our conjecture.

We're making an assumption here that the information currently shown on the ADA site hasn't been adjusted to reflect the new formulation. (Producing the needed scientific documentation along with its review takes some time.) And when finally updated, the Crest and Colgate products will qualify in the same categories.

However, in light of what's at least our uncertainties, for the current period possibly the Pro-Health product mentioned above makes the most predictable, and therefore best, choice.

How the multi-care functions of the toothpaste are created.

In broad terms, here's how the different compounds found in Crest's Pro-Health create the benefits listed above.

  • Stannous fluoride (tin difluoride, SnF2) - This compound has antibacterial properties and therefore helps to provide anti-plaque, anti-gingivitis and anti-bad breath effects by way of helping to control levels of oral bacteria.

    With continued use, fluoride builds up as a coating on root surfaces that helps to control tooth sensitivity.

    This link explains the way fluoride creates its anti-cavity effect. It is an interesting phenomenon.

  • Sodium hexametaphosphate - This compound helps to inhibit tartar and surface stain accumulation. This effect also aids in creating a teeth-whitening effect.

    Colgate Total contains tetrasodium pyrophosphate for this purpose.

  • Abrasives - The scrubbing action of these minute particles aids in tooth cleansing and whitening (surface stain removal).


The ADA Seal of Acceptance program.

Toothpaste regulations.

In the USA the Food and Drug Administration does set standards for dentifrices but they don't verify manufacturer compliance. And as such, some level of uncertainty is left for consumers as they go through the process of picking out a toothpaste.

The ADA Seal of Acceptance.

To help with this lack of oversight, the American Dental Association has developed their "Seal of Acceptance" program.

Consumers should look for this logo.

Picture of ADA Seal of Acceptance.

The ADA Seal of Acceptance.

How does a product obtain the ADA Seal?
The seal is granted to individual products based on research data submitted by their manufacturer that documents they are proven effective for the claims made on their packaging.

It's also important to mention that all ADA accepted dentifrices contain effective levels of fluoride. (Yes, we feel that for adults there is no question that the use of fluoride is a safe and effective measure in the prevention of tooth decay and therefore should be included in the toothpaste chosen.)

Products that don't have the Seal.

Not having the ADA's Seal doesn't necessarily mean that a product isn't a good one.

Generic products.

The manufacturer of a generic-equivalent might not want to go to the expense of performing the needed testing to meet the burden of proof required by the ADA's program. Of course, that leaves a consumer to wonder just how equivalent the product really is.

Other toothpastes.

For dentifrices that make aggressive advertising claims, not having the Seal is a bit of a red flag and one that should be noticed.

It's not uncommon for this type of product to contain proprietary ingredients that supposedly make it extra effective. However our point would be, if these claims are based on firm scientific evidence how come it hasn't been used to earn the ADA Seal?

Concerns with triclosan.

As mentioned above, Colgate Total is no longer formulated with the antibacterial agent triclosan.

One can only speculate exactly why but there has been a discussion for years about concerns with safety issues surrounding its use. The following links contain background information.



 Page references sources: 

ADA. Accepted Over-the-Counter Products.

Colgate Palmolive Company. List of ingredients in Colgate Total Advanced Fresh + Whitening gel.

Proctor & Gamble Company. List of ingredients in Crest Pro-Health Advanced Deep Clean toothpaste. Sales of the leading toothpaste brands in the United States in 2018 (in million U.S. dollars).

All reference sources for topic Best Toothpastes.