The Unexpected Reason You Can't Ever Find Toothpaste In Your Hotel Room

When packing for a trip, we often rely on hotels to provide the essentials: body soap, shampoo, and maybe even a sewing kit. However, one common item is conspicuously absent from the vast majority of hotel bathrooms around the world: toothpaste. The omission of toothpaste is a curious phenomenon, given that it's a hygiene item everyone uses at least twice daily. The reason behind this exclusion is not as straightforward as one might think, involving regulatory issues, cost considerations, and guest preferences.

One of the primary reasons you rarely find toothpaste in hotel rooms stems from health codes. Unlike soap and shampoo, classified as general toiletries, toothpaste is often considered a personal care item regulated by health authorities in many countries. In the United States, for example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies toothpaste as a drug because it contains fluoride, recognized for its cavity-preventing properties. This subjects toothpaste to different regulations, complicating the process for hotels to distribute it as freely as other "non-medical" toiletries.

Another factor is cost and logistics. Toothpaste, particularly in the individual sizes required for single-use in hotels, can be relatively more expensive than bulk-purchased soaps and shampoos. Toothpaste tubes also cannot be refilled as easily or cost-effectively as wall-attached body wash dispensers in the washroom, for example. Additionally, because toothpaste is considered a drug, hotels must manage an inventory of items with expiration dates (yes, toothpaste does expire!). 

Logistics, guest preferences, and hotel rankings to blame

Many travelers are particular about the brand and type of toothpaste they use, much more so than other "neutral" toiletries like soap or shampoo. Hotels might, therefore, conclude that providing a generic brand of toothpaste could disappoint guests who prefer a specific brand. Additionally, because toothpaste is a personal item, most guests bring their own. Tampons and deodorant, other examples of intimate bathroom items, are also usually amiss in hotel rooms. 

Moreover, AAA, the hotel-rating firm, doesn't grade hotels on toothpaste selections. In a Slate interview with an AAA employee, they explained that "the diamond ratings come from what we typically see. Toothpaste is not something they [hotels] typically put out." It's not a required standard that gets ranked, so hotels don't provide it. Additionally, in-room amenities are carefully selected based on consumer research and preferences — hotels don't give toothpaste because it's not something guests usually ask for. 

Good news: If you forgot to pack toothpaste in your toiletries bag, you may call the front desk for a free tube. Marriott and Sheraton hotels offer this. Or, just travel to Asia — dental kits are hotel standards, contrary to toothpaste-free-hotels of the world, predominantly in North America and Europe. Some hotels in Japan even offer guests sustainable "Toothpaste Paper" that uses 98% less plastic than conventional toothpaste. As the hospitality industry evolves, hotels might eventually offer amenities like toothpaste, but for now, it's something you should remember to pack yourself.