Article by: Perry Romanowski

Click here for a complete list of the the Cosmetic Formulation Basics series.


Toothpaste is a semisolid product designed to clean teeth and leave breath smelling and feeling fresh. While it can be considered a cosmetic, it is almost always classified as a drug because fluoride (a drug active) is included.

What toothpaste does

The primary function of toothpaste is to remove debris from the teeth surface. The most acceptable forms of toothpaste are easily extruded from the package, stay stiff enough to remain on the toothbrush, have a consumer acceptable taste, and foam adequately.

How toothpaste works

Toothpastes are a blend of surfactants, abrasives, water, humectants, anticaries actives, thickening agents, flavoring, and other aesthetic ingredients. When the toothpaste is put on the toothbrush and scrubbed in the mouth, the surfactants help remove the hydrophobic materials. Abrasive agents help to remove stains and the anticaries ingredients help kill plaque causing bacteria.


Since teeth are such a hard surface, the abrasive ingredients are required to help clean the surface of the teeth. A number of different abrasives may be used including hydrated silica, calcium carbonate, and dicalcium phosphate dihydrate. The key to a good abrasive ingredient is the size, shape, brittleness, and hardness of the particles.

To create foam and to aid in removal of hydrophobic materials surfactants that are tasteless, nonirritating and high foaming are used. While foaming isn’t required for good cleansing, consumers do expect it so cosmetic chemists have to consider this when formulating. The most common surfactant used is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. For companies who want to avoid SLS, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate and sodium methyl cocoyl taurate may also be used. Bleaches like hydrogen peroxide and urea peroxide may also be added to make teeth look more clean.

The anticaries actives are fluoride ions delivered from some salt. These include sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate, and stannous fluoride. In the United States, the amount that you can use is dictated by the anticaries monograph.

A number of ingredients are added to improve the aesthetic characteristics of toothpastes. To keep toothpaste from drying out humectants are added. These include materials like glycerin, sorbitol, and xylitol. Thickening agents like tragacanth gum, cellulose gums, and carrageenan are used to keep the product on the toothbrush. Flavorings are added to make the use experience more pleasant. Common flavorings include cinnamon, clove, menthol, and mint. Other ingredients that round off the formulation include preservatives, colorants, and desensitizing agents.

Below is an example of a typical toothpaste formula.*

*Formula from Harry’s Cosmeticology

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  1. Faith Atamako

    Thanks, Perry, my cosmetics production is now made easy by you.

  2. ross

    My toothpaste becomes fluffy. I mixed the ingredient in a vacuum mixer. What can I do to make it smooth and thick?

  3. David P.

    Hi there… love your site, and hoping for some advice! Within a day of mixing my toothpaste the sample in a glass jar forms a dark thin layer on the top. How do I fix this? Ingredients: calcium carbonate, water, sorbitol sodium bicarbonate, glycerin, silica, xylitol, sodium cocyl glutamate, carrageenan, greentea extract, essential oils.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Well, you first need to be sure there is a preservative in there.

  4. EhtashamSiddiqui

    I have all kind of cosmetics tested farmulation

    Diamondskinexpert@gmail. Com
    Diamondskinexpert@yahoo. Com

  5. Alena

    Hi, i have a small problen. When i used sodium bicarbone, air bubbles are formed.
    Thank you for your advice.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      That’s not enough information to answer your question. I’d suggest you put it in our forum with more details.

  6. Gideon-zeal

    please how can i formulate a ceramic toothpaste using gum arabic(acacia tree) as the binder. please help me out, am a student working on the formulation of toothpaste as a project. #Need an urgent reply, THANKS.

  7. David Cowie

    Hi just wondering if you have heard of the use of sorbates as anti microbials in toothpastes?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Sorbic Acid and Potassium sorbate do have some antimicrobial effect.

  8. cheldy18

    Trying to make a toothpaste using baking soda, but it appears to be reacting with the water and producing gas. What can I use to stop this happening?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Don’t use water in your formula. Use Glycerin or Propylene Glycol instead.

      1. Mohammed

        Thank you very much Mr Perry Romanowski,i am a science teacher in primery school here in Gaza-Palestine,in the science book activities there is an experment how to mak a simple toothpaste,could you help me to make this recipe or formula to discuss it to my students?thank you very much.
        Best Regards.

  9. mamun

    i want to know the percentages of ingredients of shampoo, bath soap, toothpaste, shaving cream.
    would u help me about this ?

    1. Perry Romanowski

      See our post on where to find free cosmetic formulas.

  10. pete sanchez

    I have an idea for a toothpaste. How could I get it formulated?

  11. kosar

    hi! thanks for your usefull text

  12. Jenan Subeih

    I’m looking for a new formula for oral care and personal care.

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