You’re probably aware that many foods and medicines have expiration dates, but do you know that many of your dental care products do also?
But how important are those expiration dates? Do you have to throw out the item or can you continue to use it without fear? Let’s take a look at some of the common ones.
Toothpaste: Using an expired toothpaste isn’t likely to hurt you, but the older the toothpaste is, the more breakdown it will experience. You may find that the consistency is more cakey than it used to be or that it doesn’t foam as much as it did. It also may lose some of its fluoride content, which reduces its cavity fighting ability. Sometimes the flavoring agents may also break down, leaving your breath not quite as minty-fresh as you hope. Bottom line: it probably won’t harm your health to use it, but if you want other benefits like cavity protection, replace expired toothpaste as soon as you can.
Mouthwash: As with toothpaste, the older a mouthwash is, the more likely it is that the active ingredients will no longer work to provide the benefit that you want. In addition, most mouthwashes have a high water content which allows bacteria to grow, especially if it is a couple years old. Bottom line, if your mouthwash is more than a year past the expiration date, don’t use it.
Tooth Whitening or Bleaching Products: Most tooth whitening or bleaching products have a shelf life of 6 months to a year. Keeping them in the refrigerator when not in use may extend the shelf life of your product. After the expiration date, the material becomes less and less effective. This means you may see less color change than you’d like or it may take more treatments to see the same effect. Eventually, the material won’t work to whiten or bleach your teeth at all. For most products purchased through a dental office or off the shelf at a reputable retailer, you can try using the product no matter its age. If it works, go ahead and use it. If it doesn’t work as well as you’d like, it’s time to buy newer material. (Note: If you’re not going to buy your whitening or bleaching product from a dental office, please stick to well-known brands or manufacturers. There are some products out there that claim to (and do) whiten your teeth, but do so by damaging your tooth enamel—even when they’re brand new. Your enamel is what protects your teeth, so you want to keep it intact.)
Toothbrushes: Toothbrushes (for the most part) don’t have a printed expiration date. As long as they’re unused, you can open them at any time. Once they are in use, you should replace them every 3-4 months to make sure that your teeth are being cleaned thoroughly.
Hopefully, this information will help you to know what you can safely use and what you need to toss.
*NOTE: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.
Jennifer Robb, DMD is a general dentist located in Lorain, OH. Call 440-960-1940 to reach her office.