Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Tooth, The Whole Tooth

It may just be that I have been watching more telly of late (The Wife has been feeding her Soap Opera habit) but I do seem to have come across more than the usual number of toothpaste commercials. One effort in particular caught my eye, with the remarkable claim that since, like an iceberg, only one third of a tooth is visible, twice-daily brushing only does a third of the job.

Even those of you who have not seen the advertisement in question will know exactly what is coming next. Use this toothpaste, it suggests, and by some magical power it will clean the root below the gum - that is, the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth. Now I'm sure there is science to support this (I'd never dream of accusing advertisers of being economical with the too-, sorry, truth). But it does strike me as odd that every time there's a new toothpaste ad the makers feel the need to create some sort of value added concept to augment the basic benefit that it will taste nice, leave your breath smelling okay, and stop your teeth from rotting from all that chocolate you eat.

A couple of years back there was a rash of ads promoting a toothbrush featuring a textured "tongue brush" on the reverse which could be used to clean the bacteria from one's tongue (where 75% of the wee bugs in your mouth can be found). Presumably this was based on the "insight" that many of us had been doing this for years anyway (I started after watching an episode of Muppet Babies in which Kermit brushes his), and as such there was an untapped need from which they could make some extra money. It may also have been related to the rise of the electric toothbrush, which of course does not offer the same facility, as if you try to brush your tongue with an electric toothbrush your taste buds will be shredded.

It's a stark contrast to the marketing of other "grooming" products such as deoderant, razors and shampoo, all of which focus on crafting a story around the brand rather than blinding the consumer with science. One thinks of the Lynx Effect or Dove's "Real Women."

My main problem with the toothpaste approach is not that it doesn't work (I'm sure it does), but that it seems to me a ridiculous stance. Because surely if we've all been doing it so wrong all these years, and cleaning only a small part of dental kit, why have they not all fallen out? Why am I not surrounded by people with mouths full of fillings and false teeth?

It can't all be down to the fact that my dentist takes NHS patients.

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