Do some brands of toothpaste contain sugar?

Dear Cecil:

I understand some brands of toothpaste contain sugar. Would you be a consumer advocate and list those that do so I can avoid them?

Cecil replies:

I think you’ve gotten toothpaste mixed up with sugary Dentyne gum, one of the most brazen frauds ever perpetrated on a gullible public. Most brands of toothpaste contain not sugar but a very small amount of saccharin, about 0.2 percent of the total volume. As you may know, there have been reports linking saccharin to cancer in laboratory rats, but industry spokesmen claim that a healthy 150-pound adult would have to eat 606 standard size 5.5 ounce tubes of toothpaste every day for 50 years in order to reach the level of saccharin that caused the rat tumors. A sweetener of some kind is clearly necessary; unsweetened toothpaste is about as yummy as a stick of chalk. Other toothpaste ingredients, while we’re on the subject, include natural flavoring such as spearmint or peppermint, beefed up by emulsifiers, preservatives, and artificial flavors. These also are thought to be harmless, but you never know. Personally I am oblivious to considerations of personal safety, but if you would rather not risk it you might want to get yourself a box of baking soda and brush with that. For flavor you can throw in a little cinnamon. Sounds pretty weird, I know, but hey, it’s organic.

Send questions to Cecil via

Comment on this Column