Toothpaste tablets are a fairly new, very travel-friendly and eco-friendly alternative to your standard, non-recyclable tubes of toothpaste.
I’ve already mentioned my favorite brand of plastic-free toothpaste tablets in my master list of sustainable travel toiletries, but I liked the concept so much that I got a little obsessed: I kept finding more brands with good sustainability credentials, and before I knew it, I was trying every toothpaste tablet I could get my hands on. (Along with a few kinds of refillable floss and mouthwash tablets, which are also in this review.)
Why didn’t I just stop? Because when I recommend something, I want to know there isn’t a better version out there. I want to recommend the best.
That’s probably in part because I grew up in a household with a subscription to Consumer Reports magazine. Did that make a me capitalist over-consumer who lives to shop? No, but it might have contributed to making me a cautious shopper who hates being tricked into buying cheap junk from sleezy companies – especially when there really are good companies out there, making quality products without trashing the environment. I’d much rather give my money to them, and I want to help you do the same.
What are toothpaste tablets?
Like any dehydrated product, toothpaste tablets have all the active ingredients and none of the water or fillers. You just chew up a tablet to make it start foaming, and brush with a wet toothbrush. As I discovered using all the brands in this review, different formulas create different levels of foaminess, making them more or less similar to regular toothpaste.
I’ve seen them called “toothpaste pills” before, but they’re not pills! Just like normal toothpaste, you don’t swallow these tablets.
Here are a couple more FAQs:
Q: But do tablets work for sensitive teeth?
As I wrote in another post, my teeth are so sensitive that I’ve had multiple surgeries to move my gums around and cover the painful areas. I would no sooner bite into an ice cream cone than a chunk of last week’s road kill.
So I was reluctant to try anything other than my go-to Sensodyne, the only toothpaste that didn’t leave me in pain after a few uses. That’s why Bite was the first brand of toothpaste tablet I tried – because it contains nHap, a new ingredient that’s supposed to be helpful for sensitivity. And it worked for me! The pain didn’t come back, as it always has with any other kind of toothpaste that’s not formulated for sensitive teeth.
But the surprising thing is, I’ve now been bouncing between the six different toothpaste tablets brands in this review for months, and my sensitivity has become less severe than ever.
My dentist’s only concern was to be sure to chew the tablets thoroughly, because any chunks of product could be irritating to my baby-soft gums. (But she approved of the ingredients in these formulas.) If that’s a concern for you, then byHumankind is the brand that breaks down most easily into the smoothest paste.
Q: What’s wrong with normal toothpaste?
Toothpaste tubes are wasteful and usually not recyclable. I could just stop there – that’s the main reason to switch, in my mind.
But also, toothpaste often has lots of ingredients that might not actually be good for us, such as sodium lauryl sulfate, which is a known skin-irritant. (Who knows, maybe that’s why I’ve noticed less sensitivity since switching to toothpaste tablets.)
But there’s an easy fix for all of these: Take out the liquid, bake the important parts down to a concentrate to make the product lighter, and you greatly reduce the carbon emissions and pollution from shipping them. (These waterless laundry detergent strips are another of my favorite examples, and they also happen to be great for travel.)
Q: What do toothpaste tablets feel like to use?
After trying the first two or three brands of the six in this review, I realized there were big differences between them. Some break apart and foam more easily, fizzing up like Pop Rocks. Others feel chalky or clay-like. One brand was so unpleasant to use that, if I had tried it first, I probably would never have tried another.
But because of the texture and taste, I now actually prefer tablets to toothpaste in a tube (and as I said above, I’d been married to that one high-fluoride kind for years, because of severe sensitivity).
One thing that’s true of almost all the tablets I’ve tried is that the flavor is much less overpowering than regular toothpaste – it doesn’t ruin the first sip of coffee. When I go back to toothpaste in tube, I find the taste cloyingly minty and artificial.
Which Tablets I Tested for this Review:
This is not just a list of brands! I’ve used each of these for weeks or months, and conscripted friends and family to try them and compare notes: Bite Toothpaste Bits, byHumankind, Mouthful, Unpaste, Crush & Brush and – coming soon! – Georganics. It got a little out of control.
Unless otherwise noted, every brand in this review is vegan, cruelty-free (not tested on animals), and comes in completely plastic-free packaging and shipping materials. As I explain below, I skipped some brands that didn’t meet those sustainability standards.
If you’re in a rush, here are some recommendations:
- Best plastic-free toothpaste tablets overall: Bite Toothpaste Bits. (They also make my favorite mouthwash tablets.) A close second, and more fun & fizzy toothpaste option: Crush & Brush. You can save 10% on both brands with the discount code TILTEDMAP10.
- Best toothpaste tablets with fluoride: byHumankind, who also makes the best plastic-free floss in a refillable case. (Unpaste makes a similar fluoride tablet that costs less.)
- If you’re in Europe or the UK, Georganics is available locally, and they also make a zero-waste chewing gum.
- For toothpaste in a glass jar, instead of tablets, Nelson’s Naturals (maker of Crush & Brush) makes a good one. (And don’t forget – use TILTEDMAP10 for 10% off!)
Ingredients: The Main Differences
After comparing ingredients lists, these are the major differences between different toothpaste tablet brands:
- Fluoride – out of concern for sodium fluoride being a neurotoxin, most tablet brands don’t use it. But according to my dentist and the studies I’ve read, this is a potential issue with fluoride in drinking water, not in toothpaste. You would have to eat an obscene amount of toothpaste or tablets for fluoride to cause a health problem. Whether or not tablets contain fluoride doesn’t affect the feel of the product. (Only byHumankind and Unpaste have fluoride.)
- Activated charcoal – a whitening ingredient that usually doesn’t change the taste or texture. (Many brands offer versions with and without it.)
- Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) – the second ingredient in many formulas, it’s sometimes really noticeable and not the best flavor. It’s there to balance the pH.
- Clay – makes a huge difference in the texture: The clay formulas are harder to chew, but leave your mouth feeling extra clean.
- nHap – controls bacteria, strengthens enamel and prevents sensitivity. (Bite is the only brand that uses it.)
- Xylitol – kills bacteria in your mouth and adds a sweet taste (but it’s not a sugar, so it doesn’t cause tooth decay).
Bite Toothpaste “Bits” Review
Highlights: For both toothpaste and mouthwash, I think Bite is the easiest to love. No fluoride (but an alternative ingredient instead). With or without charcoal. 19¢ per tablet, or 12¢ when you subscribe, plus use the discount code TILTEDMAP10 to save 10%.
The LA-based start-up Bite is definitely the most famous brand of toothpaste tablets (for starters, they were on Shark Tank last year). And while a lot of zero-waste companies feel a little bit hippie-ish, Bite has a more modern vibe.
They were the first toothpaste tablets I tried, and they’ve remained my favorite, because unlike some other brands in this review, there’s just nothing weird about the flavor or texture of Bite tablets, which makes it a really easy transition from normal toothpaste.
Zero plastic packaging!
Baking soda is pretty far down on Bite’s ingredient list, and I can definitely tell – I can’t taste it at all. The charcoal and non-charcoal tablets are indistinguishable, flavor-wise. (There is nothing I love more than a good taste-test, so my husband and I did several double-blind tests. We always almost guessed wrong at which one we were using.)
Bite also makes a berry flavor, theoretically for kids. I haven’t tried it, but their seasonal “champagne” option seemed more up my alley, and it was fruity and delicious.
Plus, Bite has unique ingredients that my dentist says are good for your teeth – nHap, erythritol, and xylitol.
I brought my jar of Bite to my dentist, who read through the ingredients and said, “This stuff is cool!”
She said all the ingredients in Bite were great for your teeth. Apparently nHap, which Bite calls an alternative to fluoride, was invented by NASA and is used more commonly in Japan. It controls bacteria, strengthens enamel and prevents sensitivity (as I can attest). Bite bits also contain xylitol and erythritol, which prevent tooth decay and fight bacteria.
Bite Mouthwash Review:
Only a couple of these brands make mouthwash tablets in addition to toothpaste tablets, and Bite makes a unique one: It’s the only mouthwash tablet you don’t have to dissolve in a glass of water first. You just pop it in your mouth and chew up, then take a small sip of water and swish.
I was really surprised by how well this worked! The tablets dissolve really easily, and taste fresh and bright and minty. (It’s a much more intense flavor than Bite’s toothpaste tablets.) And they contain most of the same ingredients as Bite’s toothpaste – the ingredients my dentist was so happy about.
Q: What if your Bite mouthwash tablets look “moldy”?
I opened my mouthwash tin a couple of days after arriving in Hawaii and noticed the tablets had all become fuzzy.
I was worried it was some kind of mold, but they smelled just fine. So I emailed Bite. Here’s what they replied: “That’s our natural menthol recrystallizing outside the Bits. It’s not harmful or dangerous. If you gently shake the jar, it will break up and disperse around the Bits again. Your Bits are still safe to use! We think this happens when the bits have been exposed to a bit of moisture.”
Where to order Bite:
Bite is only available directly from their website, where you can use TILTEDMAP10 to save 10%! (It might give a strange error message when you type the code in; you just have to add your email address and it should work.)
(Subscribing also saves you another 38%, and if you change your mind, you can cancel the subscription at any time.)
Note: Most discount codes also work as affiliate trackers, meaning they allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This is never related to how I review a product. (For example, I earn higher commissions on some of the brands that I don’t recommend as strongly, and no commission at all on others.) If you find my reviews helpful and use my links and discount codes, I do appreciate it!
Crush & Brush Review
Highlights: A party in your mouth! The biggest tablets and the foamiest, fizziest option I’ve tried. No fluoride. With or without charcoal. 18¢ per tablet. Use the code TILTEDMAP10 to save 10%!
Crush & Brush is made by Nelson Naturals in Nelson, British Colombia, and they’re the OG of zero-waste toothpaste. They’ve been making paste in glass jars since 2012, and they added tablets in 2019.
Overall, their formula is the most similar to Bite’s. The tablets come in Mint and Mint Charcoal and, like Bite, they contain the bacteria killing ingredient xylitol, which my dentist says is great for your teeth.
I tried both flavors and WOW, these are the most intense, flavorful, fizzy, foamy tablets I’ve tried. They’re really unique – no other brand feels similar. I actually prefer the Mint Charcoal because it’s less strong tasting than the Mint. (Unlike Bite, where the two are indistinguishable.)
I like Crush & Brush a lot, but compared with Bite, they’re a little more extreme feeling, and might be harder to get used to. But it’s also worth noting that Crush & Brush tablets are twice the size of any other brand, and they produce a lot of foam, so in that sense, the effect is more similar to normal toothpaste. (I know some people use two tablets at a time with other brands – I don’t find this necessary, but if it’s something that’s bothered you with other toothpaste tablets, Crush & Brush would be a perfect solution.)
The second ingredient in Crush & Brush is baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), which is also the case with byHumankind and Unpaste (reviewed below), but the baking soda flavor is far less noticeable in the Crush & Brush and Bite formulas.
The company also sent me a sample of their original toothpaste in Citrus Spice, one of many creative flavors it comes in, and it’s surprisingly delicious and leaves my teeth feeling very clean. The only thing I don’t like is that the flavor fades away and by the time I’ve finished brushing it tastes pretty sea-salty. But if you love salty flavors, I suspect you’d love their paste.
My only concern with Nelson Naturals is that you can’t order refills or bulk quantities online in paper packaging; every order comes in a glass bottle. (Which is better than plastic, but not as good as Bite’s refills in paper that can be composted or recycled.) They do sell in bulk in some zero-waste stores, but for people who don’t live near one of those shops, this is a major point in favor of Bite.
UPDATE: I’m excited to say that Nelson Naturals asked me to share with you that they’ll be launching compostable, paper refill packaging for Crush & Brush very soon! (Spring/summer 2021.) You heard it here first!
Where to order Crush & Brush:
You can order their toothpaste tablets, toothpaste in a jar, and other brands of hand-made personal care items directly from their website – and save 10% on all products with the code TILTEDMAP10.
One of my favorite things about Nelson Naturals is that they give a unique option to order “imperfect” products (with cosmetic defects, such as scratched packaging) at a 50% discount – saving you money and diverting usable stuff from the landfill!
Their tablets are available in bulk at these zero-waste stores in the US and (mostly) in Canada.
Highlights: My favorite option containing fluoride. No charcoal. 20¢ per tablet; or 17¢ when you subscribe. (And they make the best refillable floss.)
New York-based byHumankind, is one of the overall best brands I’ve found for plastic-free and sustainable personal care products. As you can see from all the reviews I write, this is an industry I follow rather obsessively, and I think byHumankind is a way ahead of the curve at designing durable, refillable packaging that looks good. So far, I haven’t found other brands that come close. (Others make one or two items I love, but no one else has such a wide variety of innovative designs.)
Their products are functional, elegant, and don’t feel like a compromise. (The opposite of the old-school sustainable options – either hippie brands or DIY, neither of which I have much interest in.)
byHumankind Toothpaste Tablet (& Packaging) Review
These are my favorite toothpaste tablets with fluoride. They don’t foam very much, and they have a fairly strong baking soda taste behind the natural mint flavor, but I still enjoy them. (I actually didn’t notice the baking soda flavor, but when a family member who I roped into this job pointed it out, it was clear.) They feel really smooth and kind of melt in your mouth as you chew them. (If you’re worried about sensitivity and chunks of tablet rubbing on your gums, these dissolve more easily than the others.)
And the refillable packaging for these tablets is the best I’ve seen (exactly what I’ve come to expect from byHK). It’s a small glass jar with a silicone lid that slides on. Very elegant.
While I love their containers, I love even more that byHumankind gives you the option not to buy them.
Their reusable containers are free if you subscribe, but their website makes it easy to refuse any containers you don’t want, or to just try a one-month supply of the tablets (which always come in paper packaging).
This option may seem like a small thing, but it’s actually really uncommon – and powerful for reducing consumption: Think of all the stuff that’s in your house just because it came with the thing you wanted. It’s probably a long list, right?
Giving the option to say No is complicated and costly for companies. So most don’t, because they prefer to charge for more stuff, whether you want it or not. But this is the direction we need to be moving in, and byHumankind is doing it really well.
byHumankind Floss Review
byHumankind’s floss contains silk, so it’s not vegan, but it works better and feels smoother than the vegan options I’ve tried, including Bite’s. It also tastes better.
They make fun flavors using essential oils, plus an unflavored option. I like the cardamom, which tastes exactly like cardamom – not like an artificial flavor. It doesn’t leave any taste in my mouth, but it tastes great while using it.
How does it compare to normal floss?
The first time I used this natural floss, it broke between my teeth. (Same with Bite’s floss.) Of course, it makes sense that biodegradable floss won’t be as strong as the indestructible, petroleum-based nylon kind. (That’s the problem with normal floss – it never breaks down.)
But after a couple of days, I got used to the byHumankind floss and haven’t had any more problems with it coming apart. Just keep it moving and don’t use the same spot on the floss for every tooth. It’s easy to get used to, and it’s the most “normal” feeling zero-waste floss I’ve tried.
Just like the container for their toothpaste tablets, the silicone and glass refillable floss container is a beautiful design.
Tip: You could also use byHumankind’s floss in a leftover container from normal floss. I tested this; as long as it’s not a really tiny case, it should work, and it would be a good way to try the product before taking home the container and feeling committed. (But note that this wouldn’t work with any other zero-waste brand, as the others I’ve seen all use a different, vertical-shaped design, like Bite’s, above.)
byHumankind Mouthwash Review
I like the simplicity of Bite’s mouthwash – no water glass required. But if you prefer to dissolve a mouthwash tablet in water first, instead of chewing it up, or are looking for something very gentle with zero stinging, then byHumankind is a good choice. Their mouthwash container is travel-friendly – it stores the tablets in the lid and has a built-in glass to dissolve them in.
As with their floss, byHumankind’s mouthwash also comes in lots of unusual flavors – lemon-mint, peppermint, ginger and cinnamon. I tried the peppermint – basic, I know, but good. The flavor is much lighter than Bite’s. It feels delicate and freshens your breath, but it doesn’t have nHap or xylitol, those good-for-your-teeth ingredients in Bite’s formula.
Travel note: If you’re wondering how strong these containers are, I’ve traveled with byHumankind’s glass toothpaste container and had no problems. It seems very sturdy, but if you’re backpacking and planning for your stuff to definitely get squished, then Bite’s small (62-bit) jar is probably the most solid option. (Or your own repurposed container.)
Where to order byHumankind:
byHumankind is only available through their website, which is great because it offers plastic-free, carbon-neutral, free shipping on every order, and discounts on flexible subscriptions.
If you want to try their entire refillable oral care line – mouthwash, toothpaste tablets and floss – you can save some money with their Dental Routine Set. (Or add their deodorant, which I recommend to everyone, with this set.)
The tablets are also available in their plastic-free weekend travel kits, which are a good, low-commitment way to sample a few of their other products.
I’ve also reviewed byHumankind shampoo and conditioner bars in this blog post.
Highlights: With or without fluoride. No charcoal. Similar to byHumankind, but a little chalkier. Very affordable, at 10¢ each or 9¢ if you subscribe.
As a good German company, Unpaste is no-frills: They make fluoride and fluoride-free versions of their mint-flavored tablets, and every order comes in compostable paper packaging. That’s all.
Their ingredients list is identical to byHumankind’s. The only apparent difference is that Unpaste’s fluoride tablets contain more fluoride than byHumankind’s. But there must be different proportions of other ingredients, too, because they feel much more powdery as you chew them (which is why I prefer byHumankind).
Unpaste tablets also dissolve into a more liquid-y consistency than byHumankind, and compared with Bite or Crush & Brush, they foam very little.
So these aren’t my favorite, but they work. They’re a good backup that’s widely available, and they’re the most affordable option (except buying a year’s supply of Georganics. Unpaste is affordable with less commitment.)
Where to buy Unpaste:
Unpaste doesn’t sell directly to consumers, but you can order them with free US shipping from Well Earth Goods, and subscribe to have them delivered every 50 days.
Highlights: Fluoride-free. Charcoal-free. Made with clay and difficult to chew; not a brand I would buy again. 17¢ per tablet.
While some of my family of testers liked Mouthful toothpaste tablets (I always try to get as many opinions as I can!), they were my least favorite in every way.
Like Georganics, they did leave my teeth feeling really smooth, which I think is because of the clay that they both contain. But I just don’t enjoy using them. (Any kind of toothpaste tablet will take some time to get used to. I gave these weeks and it just didn’t happen.) They don’t foam at all, and the tablets are very hard to chew up, which meant we all kept finding little pieces stuck in our teeth after brushing.
While they contain natural mint flavor, they have hardly any mintiness at all. (I like how the flavor of Bite isn’t as strong as normal toothpaste, but the flavor of Mouthful is next-to-nothing.)
Finally, the nail in the coffin: The Mouthful tablets arrived wrapped in plastic bubble wrap! (Every other brand I tried came in only paper and cardboard.)
Packaging: Bite vs Mouthful
A clear difference: Bite (and everyone other brand I tried) arrived in recyclable paper and cardboard. Mouthful arrived wrapped in plastic.
Where to order Mouthful tablets:
The only place I’ve seen to order Mouthful tablets online is directly from their website, which is currently unavailable, so maybe (hopefully) they’re making big changes.
(And their website was unreasonably hard to understand: The description of their tablets says the jar contains “90 tablets for one month’s use.” Does everyone brush their teeth three times a day? Did I miss that becoming the norm? When I tried to calculate the subscription price, I noticed it says they deliver every three months – which should mean a subscription order includes 3 bottles (by their calculation of how fast you’ll use them) or 2 bottles (by my calculation). But it doesn’t say either. It says you save 10% by subscribing, but nowhere does it say what you actually get in a subscription. This kind of lack of detail always makes me very skeptical. Okay, rant over.)
Georganics Review – Coming soon!
Highlights: No fluoride; with or without charcoal. 11¢ cents each, or as little as 4¢ in bulk.
Due to a shipping snafu and my Georganics samples coming (I suspect) all the way from England, I haven’t tried this brand yet.
But here’s what I can tell you now about what makes them unique: They’re the least expensive tablets if you order a year’s supply, and they come in crazy flavors – spearmint, orange, eucalyptus, English peppermint and tea tree (which is intimidating sounding).
More importantly, sodium bicarbonate is the first ingredient in these tablets (the only formula I’ve found where it’s #1), which makes me nervous that they might be very baking soda flavored. And, like Mouthful, Georganics tablets contain Kaolin clay, which gave my teeth a super squeaky-clean feeling with Mouthful, but also made the tablets tough as rocks to chew and hard to fully rinse away.
Maybe these are different though! I’ll update this info when my order arrives.
In additional to their toothpaste tablets, Georganics makes some creative products: Mouthwash tablets (the only brand besides Bite that I’ve found), a tooth(paste) powder (1950s-era old-school, according to my mom), a mineral toothpaste in a jar (with ingredients roughly similar to the one I tried from Nelson’s Naturals), zero-waste chewing gum, and a liquid “oil pulling” mouthwash – if you feel like getting experimental. (It says to swish it for 5 to 20 minutes.)
Where to order Georganics:
In the US, you can order Georganics from Earth Hero (in my opinion, one of the most sustainable online retailers, with a huge selection of sustainable products and brands) and save 10% with the code TILTEDMAP10 .
If you feel like committing, Georganics is the only brand that offers a one-year-supply refill size, which is a great option – having more delivered, less frequently saves on shipping emissions and packaging. Bulk is better!
In Europe or the UK, it makes more sense to order directly from their website. (You can do the same from the US, but you’ll pay a lot for shipping.)
“Hey! Why Didn’t You…?”
I left a few famous toothpaste tablet brands out of this review – for good reasons:
… Review Lush’s “Toothy Tabs”?
Because they’re packaged in plastic. Come on, Lush, YOU COULD DO BETTER.
A well-known UK brand whose stores have been a mall destination for decades, Lush is famous for plastic-free, packaging-free, sustainable beauty products – but only some of their products are any of those. Every time I’m comparison-shopping sustainable products and I look at what Lush has to offer, I’m disappointed. (I left them out of my shampoo bar review because their bars contain sodium lauryl sulfate, an ingredient often considered a skin irritant. I’m leaving them out of this review because every order of their toothpaste tablets come in a plastic bottle.)
If small start-ups like Bite can figure out how to ship refills in compostable paper packets, then a big, established company that benefits from its reputation for sustainability should be able to do it, too.
What can I say, I’m demanding. But that’s how things change!
… Review “Hello” Toothpaste Tablets?
Similar to Lush, Hello doesn’t currently have refillable packaging. They don’t send their subscription orders in paper packaging (the gold standard for sustainability for subscription products) and they’re not available in package-free bulk stores. Their tablets come in aluminum cans – better than Lush’s plastic packaging, but not the best.
I emailed them about this, and they said they’re working on a less overpackaged refill option for their tablets, but it’s not happening yet. But also, toothpaste tablets are just one small part of New Jersey-based Hello’s business – they mostly sell normal toothpaste and deodorant in normal plastic tubes.
If you do want to try Hello, their products are available from Grove Collaborative, a Certified B Corp and solid sustainable retailer. But considering the options, I’d rather support a fully plastic-free company. Since there are so many to choose from that are making great products, compromising on packaging is not required.
The Bottom Line:
After using toothpaste tablets for months, switching among brands, and thinking about what I liked and didn’t like every time I brushed my teeth, I’ve come to a conclusion: You could probably get used to any of them.
Even my Type-A brain can accept that there really is not a wrong answer here.
The biggest hurdle is just to accept that they’re going to be different from normal toothpaste. But different is good! We need different.
A Final Thought ~ Why Sustainable Brands Matter
I know these small, individual changes can feel meaningless in an out-of-control world. The usual response to this is but every little bit counts! That’s absolutely true, but I don’t think it captures the big picture, either.
I think the biggest impact of buying sustainable products is the message it sends to companies and governments: We care.
The better sustainable products sell, the more people in power realize there is an appetite for change – and that makes change happen much more quickly at every level, including government regulation and within big companies.
When I was doing my Master’s in Sustainable Business (which you can read about here), I heard from executives all the time who said they all know that consumer demand for sustainability surging. And now, I talk with executives for this blog (and for my night-job as a sustainability-focused freelance writer) and I hear the same thing: Companies see the change that’s happening, and are totally afraid of being perceived as out-of-touch.
Which means the power of “voting with our wallets” is stronger than you might think!
Looking for more? Check out my other sustainable product reviews:
- Master List of Travel Toiletries (nearly plastic-free!)
- Shampoo & conditioner bar reviews
- LastObject products – Q-tips, cotton pads & tissues (and how to spot sustainable companies that are legit)
- The best cleaning & laundry products, sans plastic
- Or read about everything I learned in a master’s degree in sustainability!