By  on August 10, 2007

As sales of whitening kits decline, whitening gums and mouthwashes take hold.The U.S. oral care market is giving consumers plenty to smile about, offering a wide assortment of new products made possible through technological advances. More than 200 oral care items are launched in the U.S. every year, including dental tools, whitening kits, oral pain relievers, floss, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash and portable sprays plus denture cleaner and adhesives.That said, the oral care market has idled in recent years, posting few gains between 2001 and 2006. According to Mintel’s April report, “The U.S. Oral Care Market,” the dental sector captured almost $3.9 billion in sales last year, up only 2 percent from 2005. (Breath-freshening and whitening products, such as gums and mints, were excluded.) The Mintel report attributes the slow growth to “cannibalization,” as new products replace older ones, rather than attracting new consumers and broadening the market.According to Mintel, toothpaste is the market’s leading category with 33.6 percent of sales, while mouthwash and dental rinses represent 17 percent. THE PHYSICAL HEALTH LINK New research shows a link between poor oral health and illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. Recent studies from Proctor & Gamble seem to support the findings.“We’re seeing a surge in awareness among consumers about oral care and the body’s overall health,” says Diane Dietz, general manager of P&G North American Oral Care.The company is tackling the issue through its Crest Oral B Pro-Health line. In September, Crest will launch its Pro-Health Night toothpaste and rinse, designed to protect the mouth from germs during sleep. In addition to freshening breath, the new line will also protect against gingivitis, plaque, cavities, tartar, sensitivity and stains. The formula is composed of stannous fluoride and whitening ingredient sodium hexametaphosphate. WHITENING WOESAccording to Mintel’s September 2005 report, “Non-Invasive Cosmetic and Dental Procedures in the U.S.,” dental whitening sales more than quadrupled from $435 million in 2000 to an estimated $2.1 billion in 2005. However, sales of whitening kits have been declining for the past four years, perhaps as a result of the growing number of whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes.Companies are trying to reenergize the category with new at-home whitening kits, hoping to attract lapsed whitening users. This past March, Crest introduced Whitestrips Daily Multicare for consumers dissatisfied with how long whitening takes. Retailing for $39.99, the 42 mint strips are designed to be worn only five minutes a day, compared to the old 30-minute strips.In August, Listerine will launch its own Whitening Quick Dissolving Strips, modeled after its successful PocketPaks, which melt in the mouth.

MOVING BEYOND STRIPSWhile whitening kit sales may have softened, whitening ingredients are increasingly found in other oral care products, such as toothpaste, mouthwash and gum. The Mintel report found that consumers now view whitening as an expectation rather than a value-added benefit.In September, Crest will introduce Scope White mouthwash, Crest Extra White Plus Scope toothpaste and Glide Whitening Plus Scope Flavor floss. The new products are designed to whiten teeth and freshen breath. The mouthwash will be Scope’s first with a whitening element. In an attempt to reinvent its brand, Scope is targeting younger consumers by utilizing new media platforms, such as blogs, Web sites, MySpace and Facebook.SuperSmile’s also getting into the whitening game with a new tooth polish and gum. The all-natural sugar-free SuperSmile Professional Whitening Gum is designed to whiten teeth and freshen breath, while making gums healthier and removing superficial surface stains. SuperSmile Quikee Whitening Tooth Polish is an on-the-go whitener, designed to be applied on teeth with the tip of the tongue after eating. It doesn’t require brushing or rinsing.GUM AND THEN SOMEIndustry experts predict the next wave of oral care products will prevent gum recession and bad breath. The antibacterial, organic, portable and children’s markets are earmarked for growth, too. 

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