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

Crest Pro-Health vs. Colgate Total- A comparison of Ingredients, Effectiveness, Safety.

What's the best toothpaste to use?

Multifunction dentifrices.

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

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

What should you look for in a toothpaste?

The ideal dentifrice would be one that can:

  • Clean and whiten teeth as well as remove stain, without the use of harsh abrasives.
  • Help to prevent plaque and tartar accumulation and promote gum health.
  • Protect teeth by way of helping to prevent tooth decay and dental erosion.
  • If needed, help to settle down sensitive teeth.
That's what multi-benefit toothpastes offer.

While the list above may seem like a tall order, and possibly more individual benefits than you think you really need, a multi-protection toothpaste can accomplish most if not all of these goals (depending on brand, see below).

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

We'll also say that the best multifunction toothpastes favorably compare to the effectiveness of competing "specialty" products.

In fact, whereas so many specialty pastes make sales by way of touting undocumented claims based on the inclusion of unproven proprietary ingredients (hence they lack the American Dental Association's Seal of Acceptance for their stated purpose, see next section), the benefits and effectiveness of Crest Pro-Health and Colgate Total have been proven by research.

Crest vs. Colgate.

The two dominant brands in the category of multi-care toothpastes are Colgate vs. Crest. That's both in terms of advertising dollars spent and more importantly in regard to documentation proving their effectiveness.

The ADA Seal of Acceptance.

ADA Seal of Acceptance.

Look for this logo on the toothpaste you buy.

What evidence is there?

The simplest way to cut to the chase on this matter is to state that these two brands (Crest Pro Health, Colgate Total) are the only ones that have earned the American Dental Association's (ADA) Seal of Acceptance for multiple toothpaste categories (we list them below for each product).

How does a product earn this seal?

They do this by way of submitting data from research studies to the ADA that documents their effectiveness.

No other brands/products have even come close to having received Acceptance for so many different benefit categories, thus making Pro-Health and Total clearly the best multi-care dentifrices.

Comparing Colgate Total vs. Crest Pro-Health.

A) Colgate Total (various versions).

Multi-care benefits.

Total has earned the ADA Seal of Acceptance for: an effective level of fluoride, bad breath control, plaque/gingivitis control, tartar control and whitening teeth.

Colgate Total ingredients.

The primary ingredients of interest in Total are: sodium fluoride, triclosan, PVM/MA copolymer, abrasives.

What do these ingredients do?

  • Sodium fluoride (NaF) - Provides anti-cavity protection.
  • Triclosan - Triclosan is a broad spectrum antibacterial (anti-plaque) compound. It's also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory (anti-gingivitis) effect for gum tissue too. Additionally, it helps to control the bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • PVM/MA copolymer - Since triclosan is an uncharged molecule, it tends to be lost from the oral environment fairly quickly. As a remedy, an assisting molecule PVM/MA copolymer (Gantrez) is included in Total's formulation that helps to increase its retention in the mouth and thus its effectiveness.

    As it turns out this copolymer is also effective in helping to reduce tartar and stain formation, and therefore also aids in creating a teeth-whitening effect.

  • Abrasives - These assist with tooth cleansing and whitening.
Comments about Colgate Total.

The only issue we would bring up about choosing this product is whether or not you want to use a toothpaste that contains triclosan.

Some feel that exposure to this compound poses health risks. We don't, but if you'd like more information so you can come to your own conclusion, here are some links.

We will mention that there is nothing new about Colgate Total. It's been on the market and used by consumers for over 15 years.

B) Crest Pro-Health (various versions).

Multi-care benefits.

Pro-Health has earned the ADA Acceptance seal for: an effective level of fluoride, bad breath control, plaque/gingivitis control, tartar control, sensitivity control and whitening teeth. That's all of the same categories as Colgate Total plus sensitivity control.

Crest Pro-health ingredients.

The primary ingredients of interest in Pro-Health are: stannous fluoride, sodium hexametaphosphate, zinc lactate, abrasives.

What do these ingredients do?

  • Stannous fluoride (tin difluoride, SnF2) - This was the first fluoride compound used in a commercial toothpaste as an anticavity agent (1956).

    It also has antibacterial properties and therefore can provide anti-plaque, anti-gingivitis and bad breath control benefits. Additionally, it helps to control tooth sensitivity.

  • Sodium hexametaphosphate - Reduces tartar and stain formation, and therefore also aids in creating a teeth-whitening effect.
  • Zinc lactate - An antimicrobial compound that aids with plaque reduction, gum health and bad breath control. It also helps to inhibit tartar formation.
  • Abrasives - These perform tooth cleansing and whitening duties.

Pro-Health has only been on the market for 10+ years but stannous fluoride (its main active ingredient) has been used in toothpaste since the mid 1950's, therefore providing a very long track record of consumer use.

Comments about Crest Pro-Health.

In theory the use of a stannous fluoride toothpaste may cause tooth staining. However, this effect can be kept in check by including anti-tartar/anti-stain ingredients in the product's formulation (hexametaphosphate in the case of Pro-Health).

Crest Pro-Health vs. Colgate Total - Which is the better multi-care toothpaste?

Generally speaking, we think that both of these products are fairly comparable and can each make a best choice.

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  • A literature review performed by Kumar (2015) found little difference in the performance of triclosan (Total) vs. stannous fluoride (Pro-Health) toothpastes in terms of user plaque scores or levels of gum inflammation.
  • A paper by Schemehorn (2011) reports an abrasion (RDA) value for both Pro-Health and Total in the neighborhood of 160 (a value of 250 is generally considered a top permissible value). And while not as low as some other toothpastes, these two products are not excessively abrasive and therefore make a reasonable choice.
Advantages of Crest Pro-Health.

Here are some reasons why Pro-Health might make a better choice than Colgate Total:

  • It has earned the ADA Seal for helping to control tooth sensitivity. Total has not. (Research by He [2014] documents this difference in effectiveness.) Of course, not every user requires this benefit.
  • A stannous fluoride formulation (Pro-Health) vs. triclosan (Total) provides greater protection against tooth erosion (tooth enamel surface loss due to exposure to acids). (West 2015)
  • A study by Schemehorn (2011) found Pro-Health's "Cleaning Efficiency" (a measure of stain removal vs. abrasiveness) to be higher than Total's.
Opinion: Additional reasons why we might lean toward choosing Pro-Health.

Point #1 -When comparing ingredients we noticed a difference in the number of compounds that Total vs. Pro-Health contained in regard to serving some functions. As examples:

  • Anti-plaque / Anti-gingivitis - Total (1), Pro-Health (2)
  • Controlling bad breath - Total (1), Pro-Health (2)
  • Anti-tartar - Total (1), Pro-Health (2)

What we're not saying here is that having two ingredients is necessarily better (more effective) than having just one. But the idea of a shotgun vs. a single-shot approach just appeals to us more.

Point #2 -We like the idea that the primary active ingredient of Pro-Health is stannous fluoride. This is compound that's been used in toothpaste formulations for over 60 years. That's a lot of clinical and safety history. In comparison, triclosan is the newer type of toothpaste ingredient and therefore has a shorter track record of consumer use (see Safety links above).

Our advice to you.

For most people, it probably doesn't matter whether you use a Crest or Colgate multi-care (there's a couple of variations of each brand available). And after trying a tube of one, if you find there's something about it you don't like (even just its taste) or you don't get the results you were expecting, then simply switch to the other and give it a try.

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.

Consumers should look for this logo.

Picture of ADA Seal of Acceptance.

The ADA Seal of Acceptance.

The ADA Seal of Acceptance.

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

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?



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