This article was medically reviewed by André V. Ritter, DDS, MBA, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at the NYU College of Dentistry.
The zero-waste movement has caught fire recently and one major innovation in the category has been toothpaste tablets. While traditional toothpaste comes in a non-recyclable tube made of plastic and metal, toothpaste tabs are dry tablets shipped in a glass jar or other eco-friendly, sustainable container. When chewed and then activated by water, they become a paste to clean your teeth with and have many of the same cavity-fighting ingredients.
There is a catch, though. We know toothpaste is essential for healthy oral care and for avoiding problems like gum disease, tooth decay, and eventual tooth loss. However, there just isn’t much research yet to confirm if toothpaste tablets are as effective, said Chris Salierno, DDS, dental practitioner, and chief dental officer of Tend.
Plus, many folks take issue with the less foamy, more gritty experience of the tablets.
But the environmental pull is still strong, so I spoke with a couple of dentists to find out if it’s smart to switch over to tablets, and then tested a handful of leading brands to find out if you’ll actually want to use them. I’ve also included insight into the current research, the ingredients to look out for, and why traditional plastic tube toothpaste is likely to be the status quo for some time.
The best toothpaste tablets
These tablets were my favorite to use because of how easily they crush into a powder when chewed, and I like the pleasantly sweet mint flavor. They contain fluoride for cavity prevention, which is a must, and they’re vegan.
The only drawbacks are that of the options I tried, these are the most expensive by unit and they come in a jar with a plastic lid, which sort of defeats the eco-friendly purpose.
Bite’s toothpaste bits break down pretty well when chewed and they have a strong minty flavor. Bite also sells a berry flavor, which I personally couldn’t stomach but it may appeal to kids. It sells an option that contains charcoal, too, but per our experts, you should probably steer clear of that ingredient for the time being.
The bits contain nano-hydroxyapatite, a dentist-approved fluoride alternative. They’re a fair value per unit, are vegan, and come in a plastic-free glass jar. If you sign up for a monthly subscription, refills come in compostable envelopes.
Like Bite, Huppy’s tablets also have a strong minty taste and crush up pretty well when chewed. As with the above brands, you should probably avoid its charcoal mint flavor for dental health reasons. These tabs contain nano-hydroxyapatite instead of fluoride for cavity prevention and are vegan.
I like that they come with lightweight refillable aluminum cases for storage, and refills are in compostable paper envelopes.
Unpaste, the American branch of German brand Denttabs, sells its tabs at a number of smaller online and brick-and-mortar retailers. It sells both fluoridated and non-fluoridated versions, so be sure to get the fluoridated ones to help prevent cavities.
The mint flavor is less aggressive than the other brands I tried, which some folks may prefer, and they also offer a cinnamon option if that’s your thing. Unpaste’s tabs are vegan and come in compostable envelopes.
What it’s like to use toothpaste tabs
Dr. Moldovan’s criticism of toothpaste tablets as “too gritty” didn’t surprise me. In my personal testing, I found the experience of using toothpaste tablets to be pretty imperfect across the board.
None of the tablets I tried produce a foam the way traditional toothpaste does, or even a true paste-like consistency, so it was hard to make sure that the actual cleaning solution and not just empty bristles were reaching all the nooks and crannies of my mouth. I needed to make a conscious effort to chew the tablets up into a fine powder that dissolves into water and saliva. And even then, it wasn’t as smooth as regular toothpaste typically is.
Also, be careful not to swallow the dissolving bits before you’ve actually brushed with them — this happens more than you might expect. Additionally, toothpaste tabs are often marketed as good for on-the-go use but it’s important to note that you still need a toothbrush, access to water, and somewhere to spit.
What dentists say
When asked about his general take on toothpaste tablets, Dr. Salierno’s opinion was quite straightforward: We simply don’t know enough yet to compare toothpaste tablets to traditional and extensively tested products like regular toothpaste.
“That doesn’t mean they aren’t effective; we just can’t say with certainty that those important active ingredients in your tablets work the same way as they do in your paste (which have lots of studies behind them),” Salierno told Insider.
Sanda Moldovan, DDS, a periodontist and nutritionist who runs her own practice in Beverly Hills, CA, feels even stronger: “I am not a big fan of toothpaste tablets. They are often too gritty and do not dissolve properly in your mouth.” She even considered developing her own line of toothpaste tablets but ultimately opted against it due to the product’s drawbacks.
“Toothpaste tablets are often too abrasive for the teeth, [and may] cause more damage than good,” she said.
Some amount of abrasion is normal for toothpaste, though — that’s typically how whitening toothpastes manage to scrub off surface stains. But anything more than gentle abrasion can be bad news, as you’ll run the risk of damaging your enamel.
One recent study found that the abrasiveness of toothpaste tablets is negligible, even less than with one particular traditional . But overall, there isn’t enough objective information out there to definitively demonstrate that toothpaste tabs are enamel-safe, nor have any tablet brands managed to earn the American Dental Association’s seal of approval.
For lack of evidence, dentists tend not to feel comfortable recommending them right now — but if you want to give them a try anyway, our sources gave us tips on how to choose one.
When choosing toothpaste or tabs, “always make sure you look at the ingredients to be sure they provide the benefits you need,” Dr. Moldovan advised.
There are some ingredients you’ll want to look for, and others you’ll want to avoid.
In the “yes” column, there’s fluoride. The ADA recommends the use of fluoridated toothpaste twice a day for both children and adults, in order to help prevent tooth decay. This is one ingredient you don’t want to skip.
Dr. Moldovan also recommended nano calcium, “which helps to mineralize teeth” and protects them from acidic food and drink. She suggested the use of probiotics in oral cleaning products as well, as recent research demonstrates their ability to decrease cavities.
“Shoppers should look for the similar ingredients that they would look for in their favorite non-tablet toothpaste,” Dr. Salierno echoed — but with a caveat. “Again, we don’t yet have the data to show that fluoride or hydroxyapatite will protect your teeth the same way when they’re in tablet form.”
Whatever you do, Salierno said to steer clear of charcoal. It may be a trendy ingredient right now in everything from dental products to skincare but when used on teeth, it may be excessively abrasive and thus damaging to enamel.
“It is quite possible that charcoal damage in tablet form is similar to what we’ve seen in paste form,” he said.
Bite and Huppy both offer versions of their tablets that include charcoal. While the scientific community hasn’t totally reached a consensus on charcoal in dental care yet, there’s enough evidence to suggest a shopper be wary.
So, are we stuck with plastic?
For the time being, we might be. Sensitive users in particular may want to steer clear, or at least consult with a dentist before making the switch. There just isn’t yet robust evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of any toothpaste alternatives at the moment, though of course, that may change in the future.
There are some toothpastes out there that come in plastic-free (usually aluminum) tubes but unfortunately, those options tend to lack important ingredients like fluoride, let alone an ADA seal of approval.
Dr. Moldovan does recommend the use of toothpaste powder as a better alternative than tablets, for those who want to ditch the tube — and they’re supported by some peer-reviewed clinical evidence. That said, the research still isn’t very robust and, like tablets, no powders have yet been granted the ADA seal, so, be aware of this before making any purchases.
*Original article online at https://www.insider.com/guides/health/best-toothpaste-tablets