Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Dear Readers,
Dr Renier Putter
          How believable is this: Procter & Gamble (P&G), a huge American consumer goods multinational claims that its Oral-B toothpaste “helps rejuvenate gums and repairs enamel in just two weeks.”
          Founded in 1837 P&G employs 95 000 people and is known for brands like Olay, Pampers, Tampax, Vicks and Gillette. You surely don’t build an empire like that by hoodwinking your customers.
          Then we have Britain’s pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline telling us that its Sensodyne product is “Clinically proven to Rebuild Enamel Strength for strong healthy teeth.” And what’s more its New Sensodyne can actually “Repair sensitive teeth.”
          Another addition to the miracles being performed by toothpaste manufacturers is the red, white and blue striped Aquafresh that is also made by GlaxoSmithKline. It maintains that “when you brush with our great tasting formulation, active minerals microscopically absorb into your teeth, fortifying and strengthening them from the inside out.”
          And in an ad on South Africa’s DStv we are told that it “strengthens enamel.”
          The makers of Pepsodent Cavity Fighter, another American brand claim that it has the uncanny ability to repair holes that are so tiny they are invisible. With its Active Micro-Calcium and Fluoride it repairs these before they become cavities. How clever it that?
          No doubt there are numerous other toothpaste brands making similar amazing claims to keep up with the competition.
          So does this mean that if dentists are not yet out of business they soon will be?
          Logically these manufactures must have scientific evidence to back what they are telling us so I contacted people who one would expect to know about the proof available. Surprisingly these fundis were unexpectedly tight lipped about this aspect of what the producers are openly bragging about.
          Who better to answer my questions, you would have thought, than Dr Renier Putter the Chairperson of the South African Dental Association (SADA). After giving him some details of the claims made for both Oral-B and Sensodyne I asked in an email: “What independent scientific evidence is there that Oral-B repairs teeth?  Is there any independent scientific evidence that any toothpaste can actually restore the enamel in your teeth?”

          I also asked: “If Oral-B is so good for your teeth and gums why does it say in small print on the box that it is only for people over 12 years of age and you should ask for your dentist’s advice if it is going to be used for children over the age of 6?”
          My questions were evidently so hard to answer that I got a second hand email reply from him via Khomi Climus (KC) Makhubele, SADA’s Chief Executive Office. But Dr Putter conveniently dodged all the issues completely by telling me to contact the manufacturers; look up websites and get hold of the packaging regulator.
This is the ad on SADA's
          This was hardly surprising as an advertisement for Sensodyne toothpaste appears on SADA’s website.
          I also sent an email to Caitlin Morrison Oral-B’s South African brand manager in Johannesburg. My questions to her were similar to the ones I asked Dr Putter. I assumed that if he could not do it, she would be definitely  able to provide the scientific evidence that shows Oral-B can repair teeth.
          It turned out that what they are telling us about Oral-B is so true that she evidently felt it would not be prudent to reply to my email. I even phoned and asked when I could expect to hear from her, and although she mumbled something that implied she would get back to me, I am still waiting.
          Oral-B contains Propylene Glycol which was nominated in 2018 by the American Dermatitis Society as the Allergen of the Year. Even though it is only found in 2 to 3% of allergy cases the nomination was made because it is so common. This synthetic compound is added to all kinds of things such as cosmetics, certain foods like bread and even brake fluid, as well as some types of antifreeze  
          At GlaxoSmithKline’s Johannesburg’s office they went one worse. I got the complete brush off. The woman on the switchboard refused to give me the name or contact details of the Sensodyne brand manager. She asked for my contact details and said she would pass them on. I’m still waiting to hear from somebody there.
This is obviously not true unless the manufacturer can prove
it has canvassed ever dentist in the world. And if you lie about
one thing how can anybody believe anything else you claim?
          The United Kingdom's Advertising Standards Authority ordered P&G to change its advertisement promoting its Oral-B Gum and Enamel Repair toothpaste. This was as a result of seven complaints it received about the ad that appeared on TV in 2017. In it viewers were told that its active repair technology “helps rejuvenate gums and repair enamel in just two weeks.”  
          Among the complainants was a qualified dental nurse.
          The ASA decided that as the toothpaste was not licensed as a medicine P&G could not be allowed to make any medicinal claims about it. The authority stated that consumers would have got the impression that the toothpaste could reverse damaged enamel within two weeks and the use of the words “repair” and “restore” implied that it could do much the same thing for gum disease.
          P&G argued that its claims were not medicinal as weakened enamel was not a disease. Its product also contained stannous fluoride, which has an antibacterial ingredient that controls the growth of bacteria and toxins.
Katharine is a South African journalist who writes news stories mainly about health.
My experience with this type of company was much the same as hers so they mustn't
complain if they are not properly represented in this post of mine.
          If everything is above board with these toothpaste claims why all the secrecy?   Unfortunately nobody in authority in South Africa does anything to stop the way the public is being misled.
          Jon, a Consumer Watchdog, who found that the more he investigated the toothpaste world the more he realised it was a Hell of a B….. trying to work out who is actually telling the truth. There are more tall stories about toothpaste than the average person has teeth. The tooth fairy would be more likely than some of these multinationals to come up with plausible promotion material for their toothpaste.
P.S. Ironically toothpaste brand owners even fight among themselves about what is true. Last year Colgate-Palmolive complained to Britain’s ASA that Sensodyne’s True White did not whiten teeth any more than its normal toothpaste.  For this reason the ASA decided that the True White ad was “misleading.” Colgate-Palmolive itself has had the truth of its own advertising seriously question by the ASA. In 2018 it upheld six complaints about Colgate’s Sensitive and Repair toothpaste. The advertising watchdog found that the claim that this “repairs teeth instantly” could not be substantiated. Other Colgate ads banned previously included one that showed an endorsement from a woman, who said she was a nurse, when in fact she was an actress.
P.S. Most, if not all the brands I have mentioned can be bought at South Africa's supermarkets and pharmacies.


  1. Thanks for taking the time to share this informative post with us. I enjoyed all the detailed information that you provided in this article. Have a great rest of your day and keep up the posts.
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  2. Nice to hear from you Rene especially as you are a dentist. It's comforting to know that as a layman there is substance in what I have written.