Toothpaste marketing

The toothpaste market is not as clean as you might think.
 
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01 .Cleaning up

Toothpaste_LEAD_toothpaste_KatG

We've looked at 17 toothpastes and spoken to dental experts to find out if there's any truth to the marketing claims.

Walking down the dental care aisle in the supermarket, consumers must wade through “advanced formulas”, “multiaction” pastes, “extreme-clean” products and even “micro-cleaning crystals” when deciding what to buy. Toothpaste, the ubiquitous daily essential, is an example of market segmentation at its most successful.

Although just two companies, Colgate Palmolive and GlaxoSmithKline, control 92% of the Australian toothpaste market, there are certainly more than two products on the shelves. As if regular toothpaste wasn’t cleaning teeth sufficiently, we now have whitening, tartar control, sensitive and enamel-lock toothpastes as well as products tailored to children.

“As a dentist, I’m quite amazed when I go through the supermarket aisle and look at just how many toothpastes are on the shelf,” says Dr Peter Alldritt, chairman of the Oral Health Committee at the Australian Dental Association (ADA). “How do people choose?”

To help you understand what you should look for in a toothpaste, CHOICE spoke with dental experts and looked at 17 toothpastes to find out if the marketing hype matches up with what the experts say we really need.

For more information about Dental care, see Beauty and personal care.

What is toothpaste made from?

From pulverised bones and crushed oyster shells to the modern-day pearly white paste, the role of toothpaste has always been to remove plaque and prevent cavities. Professor Mike Morgan, Head of Population Oral Health and Periodontics at Melbourne University, says most toothpastes contain essentially the same ingredients and believes very few in the marketplace would actually fail to perform these two tasks.

Toothpaste has two key ingredients, fluoride and a mild abrasive, bound together with thickeners, sweeteners, stabilisers and flavours. While the abrasives can vary – such as calcium carbonate and hydrated silica – they fulfil the same purpose: to polish your teeth and dislodge particles of food caught between them. 

With fluoride and abrasives found in most toothpaste, brands are constantly searching for a point of difference to market their products. Sensitive toothpaste is one valid point of difference, but experts we spoke to say many others may not deliver the results their marketing promises.

Control, protect and mislead

Tartar is the build-up of hardened plaque that can lead to gum disease. Although regular brushing can minimise its build-up, tartar can only be properly removed by a dentist. Of the toothpastes we looked at, almost all contain a tartar suspension agent – the most common being pyrophosphates and xanthan gum – designed to suspend tartar particles in saliva and prevent them from clinging to teeth. Although only three mention tartar control on their packaging, Morgan says most toothpastes will reduce the amount of tartar build-up if used in conjunction with a good toothbrush and regular brushing.

Enamel is the outer coating of the tooth. Although generally much harder than the inner dentine, it can be worn down by excessive scrubbing or acidic foods. Colgate Sensitive Enamel Protect and Macleans Advanced both claim to protect teeth enamel, but according to Alldritt these claims may be a classic example of market trickery. “The best protection for enamel is fluoride,” he says. “Enamel is a fluoride, and when exposed to the fluoride in toothpaste, it is like putting a coat of armour on it.” The ADA recommends a certain level of fluoride in regular adult toothpaste and the Macleans enamel-lock toothpaste did not contain any more fluoride than Colgate’s regular toothpaste.

Toothpastes reviewed

  • Coles Smart Buy Toothpaste 105g
  • Coles Whitening Toothpaste with Fluoride 140g
  • Colgate Advanced Whitening Micro Cleansing Crystals 110g 
  • Colgate Advanced Whitening Tartar Control with Micro Cleansing Crystals 120g 
  • Colgate Maximum Cavity Protection 175g
  • Colgate My First* 45g 
  • Colgate Sensitive Enamel Protect plus Whitening 110g
  • Colgate Sensitive Multi Protection 110g 
  • Colgate Spiderman* 110g
  • Macleans Advanced Enamel Lock Formula 170g 
  • Macleans Big Teeth* 63g
  • Macleans Extreme Clean Whitening 170g
  • Macleans Milk Teeth* 63g 
  • Sensodyne Pronamel Gentle Whitening 110g 
  • Sensodyne Repair and Protect 100g 
  • White Glo Extra Strength Whitening Toothpaste (Coffee & Tea Drinkers Formula) 150g 
  • Woolworths Home Brand Toothpaste 150g 
* Children's products

 
 

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CarsMon, 12 Nov 2012 11:55:00 GMT
Honda Odyssey first look http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/buying/Honda-Odyssey-First-Look.aspx

The Webster family took the Honda Odyssey over a weekend for the morning sports run, domestic duties and a picnic.

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CarsWed, 07 Nov 2012 11:58:00 GMT
Toyota Prius V first look http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/green-car/Toyota-Prius-V-First-Look.aspx

Our tester and a CHOICE family take the new hybrid people-mover for a ride to see if it measures up.

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CarsSun, 07 Oct 2012 08:24:00 GMT
Steering clear of car repair scams http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/maintenance/mechanics-and-car-servicing-centres.aspx

Car repair shops are coming under greater scrutiny in NSW and WA, but consumer awareness is still the first line of defence.

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CarsTue, 14 Aug 2012 10:43:00 GMT
Toyota Prius C first look http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/green-car/Toyota-Prius-C-First-Look.aspx

The latest Prius is designed for city travel and the base model is roughly half the price of the larger Prius i-tech.

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CarsThu, 05 Jul 2012 09:30:00 GMT
Honda CR-Z Sport first look http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/green-car/honda-crz-first-look.aspx

We find out whether the Honda CR-Z Sport, dubbed Car of the Year 2012 by Wheels magazine, lives up to expectations.

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CarsFri, 29 Jun 2012 11:28:00 GMT
Car reversing camera kit reviews http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/safety-and-advice/Car-reversing-cameras.aspx

A car reversing camera kit supplies you with a camera that you attach to the rear of the car, along with a monitor for viewing.

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CarsTue, 12 Jun 2012 09:46:00 GMT
Toyota Camry Hybrid first look http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/green-car/Toyota Camry Hybrid First Look.aspx

We took the latest iteration of the Toyota Camry Hybrid Luxury for a ride and found it was pretty good for one of the larger cars in the hybrid family.

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CarsFri, 27 Apr 2012 14:44:00 GMT
Toyota Prius i-Tech first look http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/green-car/Toyota-Prius-first-look.aspx

CHOICE takes a look at the most recent Prius on the market, with the optional i-Tech add on.

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CarsWed, 18 Apr 2012 12:45:00 GMT
Mazda 3 SKYACTIV first look http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/green-car/mazda-3-skyactiv-first-look.aspx

We've driven the Mazda 3 SKYACTIV for 3000km, to find out how it performs, how fuel efficient it is, and what makes it green.

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CarsWed, 04 Apr 2012 10:53:00 GMT
VW BlueMotion first look http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/green-car/vw-bluemotion-first-look.aspx

We take the VW BlueMotion for a spin to find out how it feels to drive, comfort of driving and other first impressions.

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CarsMon, 12 Mar 2012 16:29:00 GMT
Mitsubishi i-MiEV first look http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/green-car/mitsubishi-i-miev-first-look.aspx

We take the Mitsubishi i-MIEV for a spin and reveal how it feels to drive, and other first impressions.

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CarsFri, 20 Jan 2012 14:01:00 GMT
Aldi Go Cruise 1602 first look http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/gps/aldi-gocruise-1602.aspx

Despite its low price, the Go Cruise includes all the features and functions you’d expect to see on a modern car GPS.

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CarsMon, 05 Dec 2011 15:47:00 GMT
Bicycle GPS first look http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/bikes/bikes-and-cycling/bicycle-gps-first-look.aspx

We put two GPS devices designed for bicycles through their paces to see what's on offer at the expensive and inexpensive ends of the market.

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BikesTue, 01 Nov 2011 13:35:00 GMT
Tyre pressure gauge reviews http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/tyres/tyre-pressure-gauges-review-and-compare.aspx

Gauges at petrol stations are not always well maintained which may affect accuracy. You may want to think about getting your own. We tested 18 models, from $5 to $80.

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CarsThu, 19 May 2011 13:53:00 GMT
Car reliability survey http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/buying/car-reliability-survey.aspx

Advanced technologies used by car manufacturers aim to make your ride as smooth and safe as possible, how do they fare for reliability?

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CarsThu, 12 May 2011 15:45:00 GMT
Rental car companies http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/safety-and-advice/rental-car-companies-reviewed.aspx

CHOICE scrutinised the contracts of some of Australia's largest car rental companies - and found plenty to be concerned about.

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CarsMon, 18 Apr 2011 17:35:00 GMT
Used car buying guide http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/buying/how-to-buy-a-used-car.aspx

"Buyer beware" never applies more than when shopping for a used car.

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CarsThu, 03 Mar 2011 16:58:00 GMT
Tyrecheckers LED Alert caps review http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/tyres/tyrecheckers-led-alert-caps-review.aspx

These LED Alert caps for car tyres are a step towards safer and more economical motoring.

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CarsFri, 29 Oct 2010 16:51:00 GMT
E10 state of play http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/fuel/biofuels-and-e10.aspx

Biofuels such as E10 are meant to have environmental benefits, but are there hidden costs?

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CarsMon, 18 Oct 2010 16:57:00 GMT
Bike accessory reviews http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/bikes/bikes-and-cycling/bike-accessories-review.aspx

CHOICE joins forces with our friends at Bicycle Victoria to give you the bike riding essentials.

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BikesSat, 07 Aug 2010 11:32:00 GMT
How to buy a new car http://www.choice.com.au/reviews-and-tests/transport/cars/buying/how-to-buy-a-new-car.aspx

Save thousands on your next new car – and steer clear of the traps and pitfalls – by following the CHOICE buying guide.

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CarsMon, 31 May 2010 15:48:00 GMT
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