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A History and Update of Fluoride Dentifrices

Course Number: 94

Public Acceptance of Therapeutic Dentifrices

An interesting perspective on the public awareness and acceptance of a therapeutic dentifrice comes from an article published by the Harvard Business School.19 A detailed report by Unilever in 1959 made the observation: “Unfortunately, the true therapeutic dentifrice giving a high degree of protection against dental caries still remains a dream, one which seems unlikely to come true for some time. If this problem could be solved it might give us a world leader.” The development and testing of Crest toothpaste in the late 50s seemed to be just such a dream product, but a market survey in 1958 showed this therapeutic dentifrice had had little effect on market shares. It wasn't until Crest was granted the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance that it was able to set itself apart from all other toothpastes. A total of over 40 clinical trials have been conducted with the original stannous fluoride, along with different abrasive systems, that have verified its efficacy. The combined importance of ADA acceptance plus no comparable therapeutic rival gave the Crest brand a chance to become a market leader. In 1969, Colgate also received endorsement for a therapeutic dentifrice. This shifted toothpastes from delivering merely cosmetic benefits to those focused on more therapeutic benefits, and the entire market began to evolve. A review of market shares shows toothpastes focused on delivering cosmetic benefits in the US had almost 70% of the market in 1960 but only 11% in 1985. Likewise, the therapeutically focused brands had only 14% of the market in 1960 but jumped to 60% in 1985, with another 19% in combination products. This shift in market shares shows the tremendous public acceptance and demand for therapeutic dentifrices that continues today. European markets were soon to follow, although it was Colgate’s shift to a therapeutic dentifrice that led the way in that geography. Gum health was another area of growing interest in the 1980s. The primary mover in the “gum health” sector of the toothpaste market was the German firm Blendax. Similar to the shift in market shares in the US, the European cosmetic brands constituted only 10% of the market in 1985.19