Evaluation of the antimicrobial activity of dentifrices on human oral bacteria

J Clin Dent. 2010;21(4):96-100.


Objective: In vitro testing of antimicrobial agents is an important tool in the testing hierarchy, and may provide interesting insights into their potential clinical efficacy. Agents with demonstrable in vitro antimicrobial activity may be effective against the same microorganisms in vivo, whereas agents without demonstrable in vitro antimicrobial activity are unlikely to exhibit in vivo antimicrobial activity. In addition, these methods may also be useful in screening antimicrobial agents in product formulations because such agents with both in vitro and in vivo activity may have reduced antimicrobial effects when formulated into a dentifrice. Accordingly, this study examined the in vitro and ex vivo antimicrobial activity of three commercial dentifrices: one formulated with 0.243% sodium fluoride (Crest Cavity Protection Toothpaste-Regular); one with 0.454% stannous fluoride, sodium hexametaphosphate, and zinc lactate (Crest Pro-Health), and one with 0.3% triclosan, 2.0% PVM/MA copolymer, and 0.243% sodium fluoride (Colgate Total).

Methods: The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of each dentifrice was determined for resident oral bacterial species, including bacteria that are associated with dental caries; periodontitis, and oral halitosis. Evaluations were performed on individual laboratory strains, and on oral bacteria from supragingival plaque samples obtained from 10 adults and from oral rinse samples obtained from 18 adults.

Results: The lowest MICs against the oral strains and human samples, i.e., greatest antimicrobial activity, were seen for the triclosan/ copolymer dentifrice. There was, in general, a four-fold difference in MICs between the triclosan/copolymer dentifrice and the stannous fluoride/sodium hexametaphosphate/zinc lactate dentifrice. The triclosan/copolymer dentifrice significantly inhibited periodontal pathogens, such as Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, Eikenella corrodens, and Fusobacterium nucleatum. In ex vivo tests measuring antimicrobial effects, the triclosan/copolymer dentifrice substantially inhibited bacterial growth after 30-, 60-, and 120-second exposures compared to the sodium fluoride or stannous fluoride/sodium hexametaphosphate/zinc lactate dentifrices. Similarly, in ex vivo tests measuring antimicrobial effects on supragingival plaque biofilms, the triclosan/copolymer dentifrice substantially inhibited bacterial growth compared to the other test dentifrices.

Conclusion: Different in vitro and ex vivo analyses show that the triclosan/copolymer dentifrice has significant antimicrobial activity on oral bacteria, including species causing dental caries, periodontitis, and oral halitosis, and it provides superior efficacy compared to the stannous fluoride/sodium hexametaphosphate/zinc lactate dentifrice.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Cariostatic Agents / pharmacology
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Dentifrices / chemistry
  • Dentifrices / pharmacology*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Humans
  • Maleates
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Mouth / microbiology*
  • Phosphates / chemistry
  • Phosphates / pharmacology
  • Polyethylenes
  • Silicic Acid / chemistry
  • Silicic Acid / pharmacology
  • Sodium Fluoride
  • Tin Fluorides / chemistry
  • Tin Fluorides / pharmacology
  • Toothpastes / chemistry
  • Toothpastes / pharmacology
  • Triclosan
  • Zinc Compounds


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Cariostatic Agents
  • Crest Pro-Health Dentifrice
  • Dentifrices
  • Drug Combinations
  • Maleates
  • Phosphates
  • Polyethylenes
  • Tin Fluorides
  • Toothpastes
  • Zinc Compounds
  • hydrated silica gel-based toothpaste
  • Silicic Acid
  • Triclosan
  • Sodium Fluoride
  • poly(methyl vinyl ether-co-maleic anhydride)
  • sodium polymetaphosphate