Streptococcus mutans is an important bacterial species implicated in dental caries. This laboratory study compared the antimicrobial activity of a number of fluoride containing and herbal dentifrices and their components against S. mutans. An agar diffusion method was used with Mueller-Hinton agar. Wells were filled with either 10 commercial fluoride or 6 herbal dentifrices, or with solutions of various fluoride compounds, sodium lauryl sulphate, sodium benzoate, chlorhexidine digluconate or triclosan. Diameters of zones of bacterial growth inhibition surrounding the wells were measured using a micrometer. Significant differences were found for growth inhibition between the 10 fluoridated dentifrices (p < 0.0001), with Colgate Total having the greatest effect. There was not a direct correlation with fluoride type or fluoride concentration. The antibacterial activities of the 6 herbal toothpastes varied, with Herbal Fresh being the strongest. Sodium lauryl sulphate showed strong antimicrobial activity against S. mutans at the levels used in dentifrices. Antimicrobial activity of commercial dentifrices against S. mutans may be exerted by components other than fluoride. Ingredients such as triclosan and sodium lauryl sulphate have larger antimicrobial effects than fluorides in this model.