Toothpaste Flavors: Influencing Oral Health Behavior

Date: August 2021

Author: Natalie Bradley BDS Dip SCD MFDS RCSEd

The origins of toothpaste go back to ancient times, and toothpaste in a tube was developed in the 1880s. Since then, many formulations have been created using a variety of ingredients. There is strong evidence that the use of fluoride toothpaste is effective in helping to prevent and reduce dental caries in children, adolescents and adults. Therefore it is important to ensure the flavor of the toothpaste is appealing in order to promote its use when brushing, and therefore good oral health. Minty toothpaste is a key staple of oral health products but not all patients like the 'traditional' taste of toothpaste, and for some patients, the flavor of the toothpaste is a key factor in their decision-making on whether they will actually buy and use the toothpaste as part of oral home care. 

What flavors are available?

Some people think that the toothpastes are always minty; however, there are a range of flavors available for adults and children including:

  • Minty
  • Sweet flavors, e.g., fruity
  • Sour flavors 
  • Spicy flavors
  • Unflavored

Why does flavor matter?

The flavor of a toothpaste can make a big difference for both adults and children. In one study, approximately 50% of adults reported being influenced by flavor in their choice of toothpaste. 

Children tend to have a heightened preference for sweet taste during early development and this has been demonstrated globally. Having an acceptable taste is essential to ensure children use the toothpaste and get into good oral hygiene habits, instilling positive oral health behaviors. Having a palatable taste may also increase brushing times. 

For adults, flavor is also important to help ensure good compliance with oral hygiene habits. Cultures can also influence flavor preferences, for example clove or herbal preparations or peppermint. Moreover, the psychological impact of the color of a toothpaste can influence flavor perception. In one survey ,50% of the children indicated that they wanted their toothpaste to taste sweet, followed by minty (20%), sour (14%), and spicy (11%).

Ensuring there is a range of flavored toothpastes to address patient preferences can help to influence oral health behavior in children and adults.

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