Overpriced items: toothpaste

June 2, 2020 • 2:15 pm

I’ve mentioned overpriced items before—items that seem to cost way more than they should given the ingredients and even the labor involved in their production. This group includes Starbucks lattes and specialty drinks (I buy them only when I’m away from my espresso machine of a morning), breakfast cereal (never buy it except when visitors come)—and toothpaste.

To show you how ridiculously inflated the cost of toothpaste is, here’s a tube of CVS’s generic “sensitive tooth” toothpaste, which I started using a couple of years ago when I had a crown put on my tooth and it was close to the nerve, which made the tooth sensitive. The dentist said to use Sensodyne, the brand-name equivalent of what’s below, and which, though costing more, has the same ingredients (again, always buy generics). Nevertheless, the CVS generic cost nearly SIX DOLLARS for a measly four ounces.

The “active” ingredients: potassium nitrate 5% (for sensitivity) and sodium fluoride 0.24% (for cavity prevention). All toothpastes except for special ones have about the same amount of fluoride.

Here’s my old standby: Pepsodent toothpaste. It has exactly the same percentage of sodium fluoride, a standard tube holds 5.5 ounces (38% more paste than the overpriced CVS stuff), and COSTS AROUND A DOLLAR A TUBE. It’s less than 20% the price of the CVS stuff.


When you buy the CVS stuff, you are paying around five dollars for that 5% potassium nitrate, and believe me, potassium nitrate is not that expensive (I used to run a lab and ordered chemicals). In other words, the CVS stuff is a world-class ripoff. Why do I buy it? Well, my tooth sensitivity stopped when I began using it, and I’ve just stuck with it. Now I’m thinking that I need to try a little experiment and go back to Pepsodent.

Other fancy toothpastes are also overpriced, as this article points out. Take Professor Ceiling Cat’s word here: if you don’t need whitening, and don’t suffer from sensitive teeth, or don’t need “organic” dentifrice, do yourself a favor and just buy Pepsodent. You could afford an overpriced Starbucks latte with the money you save on one tube!

What items do you think are overpriced. My ears are open.


81 thoughts on “Overpriced items: toothpaste

  1. There is always good old baking powder, too. I used that for years until I ended up with sensitive teeth.

  2. I know toothpaste WTF

    Sadly, TJs brand started burning my mouth, and I had to fall back to frikkin Colgate. I think they put too much peppermint in and I haven’t tried it lately.

  3. EXACTLY! (Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout.) Pepsodent is great. I’ve been using it for years. Regarding your problem, Jerry, I once had the same issue and was told by a dentist to use toothpaste that had Sensoydne in it, at least until the sensitivity went away. It did — and then I went back to Pepsodent.

  4. I may be repeating myself here, but EVERYTHING in a pet store is greatly overpriced. These places know that pet owners are suckers for anything.

    One of the worst deals I saw was a 16 oz jar of peanut butter for dogs: $10. Same ingredients as regular peanut butter (peanuts) that can be had for 3 or 4 bucks at a grocery store.

    When my wife goes to one of these places I stay outside. And then ignore the receipts!

    1. No kidding! At the local pet store here a 5” bully stick is $5.99. That’s more than a buck an inch and my dogs can eat one in about 5 minutes. Never buying those again. They also overcharge turtle food; now I buy it online, it’s about 50% cheaper.

      1. People who shop in a pet store are considered to be luxury shopping, so there is a price premium. They do the same for mechanical or electrical items sold at boating stores, even if the exact same item can be purchased for your domestic car for a fraction of the price. If you are buying it from a John Deere dealer, it will still be the identical item, but much higher than even the Boating price.

        Some of the wound care products and medicines that we can buy at the feed store for the livestock are at least as good as the same items made to treat humans. often they are made by the same companies.
        But the animal care products are much more affordable. I understand that the regulatory requirements are the primary cause, but I have veterinary wound care items in our first aid kit that I don’t hesitate to use on myself or other family members.

        1. I buy my hard red winter wheat, washing soda, lye and potassium bicarbonate from the feed store. The wheat is half the price, same quality, the soda is an eighth the price of the supermarket. I’ll probably need to buy more washing soda in about 5 years.

          I’ll have to see if they have vet supplies, I need to stock up my first aid kit.

    2. Right now, everything in the supermarket is overpriced IMO.

      Though I think they’ve done a tricky thing to get away with it; rather than raising the labeled price, what they’ve done is significantly cut back on all the “member discount” tags, both in number and amount saved. With a frugal eye, I used to be able to achieve 10-20% off total bill by looking for those discounts. Now I rarely top 5%.

    3. Advantage II, flea treatment for cats is $47,000 per gallon!

      I just purchased six .027 fluid oz. tubes for $60. And the fleas must be evolving resistance because it seems to be losing effectiveness.

      1. I have 7 Labs so monthly heartworm and flea prevention is a major expense. I found a source in England that is half the price and it’s the exact same Heartgard and Frontline and I don’t need a prescription. It’s still expensive but more manageable.

  5. Champagne:

    2013 Taste of Diamonds – $2.07 million
    2013 Armand de Brignac Rose 30-Liter Midas – $275,000
    2011 Armand de Brignac 15-Liter – $90,000
    1996 Dom Perignon Rose Gold Methuselah – $49,000
    1820 Juglar Cuvee – $43,500
    1959 Dom Perignon – $42,350
    1841 Veuve Clicquot – $34,000
    1928 Krug – $21,200
    Louis Roederer, Cristal Brut 1990 Millennium Cuvee Methuselah – $18,800
    Shipwrecked Champagne – average of $14,181.81 per bottle

    These prices are completely fictional, and probably nobody will ever drink these bottles.


    1. Yes, among wines I find champagnes grossly overpriced for what they are, especially the fancy ones. I will list some great bargains in wines for the quality:

      Good Spanish sherry (anything with the name Lustau on it will be good, sweet or dry)

      Any good sweet wines save Sauternes (which are great but pricey)

      Late bottled vintage port

      Aged Riojas from Spain

      Good chenin blancs

      Rieslings from Germany, esp.the drier ones.

      Spanish whites: Tempranillo, Albariño, etc.

      In general, sweet wines can be good values because many people don’t like them.

      1. If you’re into rosé/rosado wines, my father-in-law in Spain swears by the ones from Navarra (it’s the region next to La Rioja).

      2. We discovered that bio wines, for bottles costing around 5-6 Euro, are much better than than conventional wines with similar prices. This is true for wines from most European countries. This was not the case 10 years ago. Bio wines then often tasted like the wines my wife’s great aunt in Tuscany used to produce for own consumption.

    2. Yikes. Don’t think I’ve spent more than $25 a bottle for any wine I’ve tried (newbie wine drinker here). I’m just trying local stuff (though I got some cheap Spanish red to have Sangrias with my neighbor once–tasted great). So, I’ve been browsing the Texas wine sections to find stuff I might enjoy. I found I like sweeter wines, the fruit wines, and one company I enjoy trying most. I’ve tried a few others and only found maybe two bottles I absolutely hated. I think the most I spent on a bottle was $22 because it was a small vintage and selling quickly. That’s it.

      The “rare and special” wines that sell for more than the price of a house are ridiculous. Hell, the ones that sell for about as much as your car payment are too much, too. It’s just bragging rights, “oh look, I’m Mr. Important and I have all this extra money to blow.” I love when the snooty wine lovers get owned by people taste testing them with cheap wines… and they like the cheap ones better. Welcome back to planet earth, buddy.

  6. Pepsodent tooth paste has a very highRDA value (relative dentin abrasion) of 150 which is highly abrasive and right on the border of being harmful.

  7. When I get low on toothpaste, I just buy whatever’s on a twofer sale at Walgreens.

    Only thing I insist upon is that it be a paste, not one of those damned gels, or some kinda mishmash.

  8. Boutique potato chips. These are ubiquitous nowadays. They are usually “kettle chip” style and some have wild flavors like horseradish, ghost pepper, pepperoncini, Kim-chee, etc. But they are in 4-5oz bags and usually cost around $4 a bag. A buck an ounce. Damn. Could you imagine paying $16 for a pound of potatoes? Total rip off. Though if they go on sale, I’ll usually try out an unusual flavor; I have to admit, some are very tasty.

    1. I agree. Chips are outrageous in price. Long ago when I was just a wee kid on the farm I grew potatoes to sell. I was selling them to the stores. When the price was good I was getting $8 bucks a hundred pounds. Then the price started going down and I could hardly get $3 bucks a hundred. I quite selling potatoes.

      1. I can see how lugging around 100lbs of potatoes for $3 would get old. Even at $8, that sounds like a lot of work. But it’s always fun making money as a wee kid. My dad and I used to drive to California (from Reno NV) to pick mistletoe from the oak trees. We’d fill up 4 or 5 garbage bags and I’d sell it around the neighborhood, on street corners and some grocery stores. Then I spent all the hard earned money on Christmas gifts.

        1. For a couple of years as a kid I shined shoes to make money. I put together a kit and I’d go to work with my father to a remote military post on a mountain top in Germany and shine shoes all day. $.50 for shoes and $1 for boots. And tips.

          I was rolling in the dough. I used a lot of it to buy my first serious skate board, part by part, mail order from skating magazines. This was during the skate boarding craze of the 70s, when Russ Howell was a god. I’d save up some then order a part. Usually took about 3 months to get. Probably took a year total to get all the parts and have something to ride. But it was top of the line. Logan Earth Ski deck, Bennett Vector trucks and OJ Super Juice wheels. I did everything on that board from downhill to 1/2 pipe.

            1. 🙂

              No need to buy their records in those days. Just turn on the radio. It’s funny. Back then I sort of rolled my eyes when an ABBA song came on, but these days when I hear the first notes of an ABBA song I’m reaching to turn up the volume.

          1. Nice story…I too had a custom board. Hosoi deck, Independent trucks…I can’t remember the wheels. Haven’t thought about that board for years. I cut the grip tape into a Union Jack motif. This was in the 80’s, also a time of skater craze…at least around where I lived. Fun times. We built a 10′ half-pipe in my best friend’s back yard. That was a blast. We had to tear it down because by the end of Summer people would be there skating from dawn to dusk…many of the kids were complete strangers. News traveled fast.

  9. I was struck by the arbitrariness of pricing last week at Save-on-Foods: a small bottle of Lea & Perrin’s Worcester Saurce cost $6 in the cooking ingredients aisle, but head on over to the barbecue aisle and you can find a big bottle (literally twice the volume) for $4. It’s all about market positioning.

  10. I am told that everything in the grocery stores has increased a great deal lately. Do not know why. I think $3.00 for a good loaf of sour dough bread is kind of high but I cannot stand just regular bread.

    What about the price of autos. On average you can throw away $30 grand on a car today easily. People just don’t pay any attention because they only want to know the monthly payment. It is kind of like buying a house. Just tell me the monthly payments, I can’t stand it.

    1. what I hate about the car thing is that there’s so much extra junk in them. Good luck finding a stripped down model that doesn’t have all the cameras and sensors and power this and GPS that. I don’t need all that stuff. The dealership keeps calling to ask if I’m ready to trade in my 5 year old Nissan Versa. I am like “hell no.” I got the only one without power windows or door locks, stripped down and with a good transmission and engine to run til it falls apart. And a hatchback. That’s it. I didn’t even know they still made cars with manual door locks and windows, so when I learned what it was, I snatched it up.

      Now, if I traded it in, I’d be stuck paying a least $3000 more because of all the bells and whistles. I hate all that stuff; just means more things to go wrong. Even when you do the “build your car” option when figuring out vehicle pricing and availability on websites, there’s still too much crap they put in the cars for my taste.

      1. I agree with you….. I have an 8 yr old Ford Transit Connect. It does have cruise which keeps me out of trouble and power locks but none of the rest of the stuff. It goes to the lumber yard, dump, grocery and hauls as many as 9 Labs at a time. I’m hoping to get another 7-8 years but I’m afraid it will rust out underneath before then.

  11. I have been happily married for over twenty years to a woman who keeps and rides horses. Any piece of clothing that has an image of a horse on it – even just an embossing on a snap – costs at least twice what it would otherwise. And of course the generic version will not do under any circumstance.

    1. Clothing where you pay more for the logo on the clothing than the garment itself! You also are paying to advertise for them.

  12. Breakfast cereal (which I buy) is ridiculously overpriced.

    Bottled water (which I do not) has an enormous markup.

    1. Furthermore, there are few things more ridiculous than flying bottled water around the planet (or sending it by ship for that matter). In parts of the world where clean, safe water comes straight out of the tap it is hard to understand the attraction of drinking imported, bottled water.

  13. Pretty well any soap, shampoo or moistener. The generic versions are just as effective as the fancy ones, and cost a fraction. Indeed, we don’t really need shampoo at all: a vigorous rub under a shower works just as well, and doesn’t strip away our natural scalp oils. I haven’t used it for about 15 years.

  14. Some really high prices today –



    The sky is the limit on both of these.

  15. Dog toothpaste is grossly overpriced at $20 per tube but you don’t have a choice in the matter I guess meat flavouring are expensive ingredients. Don’t get me started on their shampoos and conditioners. I spend way more on his stuff than I would dream on spending on my self. Harrummpphh

    1. Dog toothpaste? Why does a dog need toothpaste? Why not just give the pooch a bone to gnaw on?

  16. I can’t find it right now, but one of the guys from UCSF posted a medical bill his wife (a nurse) got for a covid test, based on a working exposure. The top line cost was over $18k (before all the, in group reductions, insurance deductions etc.). His tweet was essentially, “if I put a PCR test on an NIH budget it’s in the $10-20 range, perhaps I should adjust my budgets”.

  17. Two comments. First the toothpaste pictured at the link has about 2 cm of toothpaste. When I got my quip brush, it noted that you only need a pea-sized amount, and it works very well. A tube can last 3 months. Second, the link touts fluoride as necessary. Not really true for adults. In Europe, you can buy salt with fluoride for children to use (it provides an appropriate amount) and adults can use a non-fluoride salt.

  18. I use the kind for sensitive teeth, and I always wheedle as many free sample-size tubes from my dental hygienist as she is willing to part with. (I gasped at the price the first time I ever actually bought a tube.)

    For what it’s worth, she told me that most people use more toothpaste than they need. The Sensodyne tube says to use “at least a 1-inch strip” (!!), but she said you only need a blob the size of a pea.

    1. They are expensive in an absolute sense, but when it looking at it from a cost per shave? I’m not so sure. I bought one of those extra large packs of triple blade cartridges from a Sam’s Club, must have been at least 2 years ago, for about $45. The total count must have been something like 16 or 20. I’ve still got 3 cartridges left. That’s going to end up at less than $.06 per shave.

      I suppose you can beat that hands down with an old fashioned straight razor but probably nothing else. Maybe an electric but any time I’ve tried electric I’ve hated it.

        1. Yes! I get the same ones.
          Of course, if you don’t shave you save even more. Or if you do you can go electric but I haven’t penciled that out.

    2. Here is what I do on the high priced blades. Started ordering from Amazon. Much cheaper prices. Same is true for the replacement heads on the electric tooth brush. The prices in the stores just got nuts. Much cheaper from Amazon.

      1. Indeed. Replacement Sonicare brushes are hideously expensive if you buy the brand name, but really cheap if you buy the generics on Amazon, which, in my experience, are just as good.

  19. I grew up believing that popcorn was one of the products with the highest profit margins – 1,600% if I recall correctly.

    1. If you are talking theater prices you are probably correct. The price is outrageous there. I think for microwave, a box is about 3 or 4 bucks, that’s 6 packages. But you are paying for a lot of things other than the corn there.

      Really high profit margins – cosmetics.

  20. If you are talking theater prices you are probably correct. The price is outrageous there. I think for microwave, a box is about 3 or 4 bucks, that’s 6 packages. But you are paying for a lot of things other than the corn there.

    Really high profit margins – cosmetics.

  21. Yup, in cinemas, though any form of ready-popped corn is overpriced. Cosmetics are outside my area of expertise and my wife is very “low-maintenance” (one for the next “Words and Phrases I Hate”?) but I’m sure you’re correct.

    1. That was meant to be a reply to Randall at #22. Is it just me or is the reply button hit-and-miss? I ended up clicking on PCC(E)’s latest tweet before successfully opening this reply box.

  22. Cat litter. It’s around 40 cents per pound for the Purina non-clumping formula found at most supermarkets which equates to around $4 per fill of the litter box. I think it should only cost pennies to fill.

  23. Pepsodent is in my bathroom too. My wife bought a case of it so I expect I’ll be using it for quite some time. What I remember about toothpaste is that it used to be Pepsodent, Colgate, and Crest and that was it. Now there are probably 50 versions of Crest alone.

  24. Last time I bought Lidl toothpaste in their Perth, Scotland, store, it was 38p (around 30c US??) for a 125 ml tube. My only gripe is that the plastic tube is not recyclable, so goes straight to landfill.

  25. I’ve long thought the most overpriced things were eyeglass frames. I bought the last few pair online and they were much, much cheaper, but they still seem way high to me for a few bits of plastic. I’d love to know the cost to make them.

  26. Jerry, check your local Dollar Tree store. I have sensitive teeth too, and use the “Natural White Sensitive” toothpaste Dollar Tree sells for $1.00 a tube. It has fluoride too, and is also made in America, so there’s that. It has the same sensitivity ingredient that Sensodyne and the CVS Sensitivity toothpaste uses, works fine.

  27. Similar issue with a crown here. I find I don’t have to use Sensodyne every time I brush to keep it happy – once a day will do, and can use some other toothpaste the rest of the day. Makes each tube last two or three times longer!

  28. Batteries

    Especially 9V

    Cheap / free Harbor Freight might help but the 9V are never free there.

  29. I am a fan of Apple stuff, but I concede that Apple accessories are or seem to be overpriced. Maybe all Apple products in general are overpriced. The old style magic mouse was pricey, at about $50 or so. The new one is $80 (granted in includes a rechargeable battery which it could be a long-term disadvantage). The old wireless keyboard was about $90 or so. The new one is $150!. I covered from CAD, so I might off by a bit, but in a any case, it is no wonder I get weirds looks from PC using friends when I tell them I run a Mac shop at home.

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