Toothpaste has been around for centuries. And flavoring in toothpaste as been around for almost as long. However, it was the early 20th century that brought us the first mass marketed mint flavored toothpaste and the beloved Betty White (born January 17th, 1922). And much like Betty White, mint toothpaste is still kicking it. But what exactly does this minty flavor do and why do most kinds of toothpaste have this flavor?

To squash the biggest misconception up front: there is no health benefit to having mint in toothpaste. Although mint does have health benefits, the amount of mint oil used in toothpaste is not enough to see any of those benefits. Mint flavoring in toothpaste is just that, a flavoring. In reality, there are two big reasons mint toothpaste is so popular. 

Let's Get the Science Out of the Way

relish, vegetable, herb, mint
Julia Murphy

To avoid getting overly complicated and making everyone's heads hurt, we've removed the super technical stuff. Basically, there are different sensory receptors in your mouth which react to different stimuli. One specific receptor reacts in the presence of cold temperatures telling the brain your mouth feels cold. The same receptor that reacts to cold also happens to react in the presence of mint. So when something minty is in your mouth, your brain is being told your mouth feels cold. 

Onto the Real Reason

Cassie Wolff

Although mint flavoring has been around for centuries, it was never really more or less popular than other varieties (ginseng, honey, lemon, and a mix of herbs). It wasn't until the advertising executive Claude C. Hopkins started his ad campaign for Pepsodent that mint toothpaste really took off. His ads not only promised to make your smile beautiful but also convinced you that you're missing out on that pretty smile the people around you have.

The ad campaign got their foot in the door, but it was the mint flavor that got people hooked. That cool signal sent to your brain from the mint made your mouth feel cleaner. This created a dependency for people. They were told that their teeth were "dingy" by Hopkins if they didn't feel that tingling cool sensation in their mouths.

This ad campaign not only popularized minty toothpaste, but also created the daily brushing habit. Around this same time, Listerine and Lifesaver also promoted themselves using these same principals. After about a decade, and a ton of research, competing toothpaste companies discovered what made Pepsodent so popular. Now it's almost impossible to find toothpaste without some additive that makes you mouth feel cool and clean. 

sweet, cream, chocolate, tea, coffee
Katherine Baker

So, although Chip Skylark told us to "Brush, gargle, rinse,

A couple breath mints," the minty flavor alone isn't gonna do much of anything to keep your teeth clean. Better just stick to the brushing part if you wanna keep those teeth shiny, but feel free to use whatever flavor toothpaste you want.