By  on January 7, 2011

Dr. Irwin Smigel thinks retirement can turn one into an old-timer. That’s sage advice coming from the Manhattan-based celebrity cosmetic dentist who not only works at his bustling practice four days a week after five decades in the business but also continues to lecture across the country on advancements in the field of cosmetic dentistry, as well as create products for his estimated $20 million retail business. So what does Smigel have in store for 2011?

Nothing short of growing his business, he said recently from his offices, located at 635 Madison Avenue. In the first quarter, Smigel will debut a 30-minute infomercial that looks to educate consumers on the benefits of his Supersmile product line, items he takes particular pride in, as they are arguably the leading-selling premium-priced whitening toothpastes on the market. Supersmile, which launched in 1987 and includes oral care products ranging from mouthwash to tongue cleaners to sonic toothbrushes, is currently sold in 1,500 stores nationwide, including Dillard’s, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Duane Reade and independent pharmacies.

The infomercial, which Smigel is self-funding, has begun filming in San Antonio, New York and California and will highlight not only its products but how Supersmile is beneficial for dental health, a marker for overall systemic health. Like many infomercials, Smigel’s will explain the science behind the brand, specifically how the whitening works. Before and after photos will also showcase Supersmile’s whitening capabilities. The infomercial may even include one of his famous clients; many celebrities are fans of his Supersmile products, such as Kelly Ripa, Kristen Bell, Adam Sandler, Jimmy Fallon and Ivana Trump. Taking the infomerical route is in line with how other brands have been educating consumers on their products’ benefits. Last spring, for example, Procter & Gamble Co.’s Olay Pro-X brand launched an infomercial to better communicate its professional-grade antiage creams, especially the science behind the formulas.

While the Supersmile business is booming — Smigel said sales doubled in 2010 versus 2009 — growing outside the U.S. has been difficult without the help of a multinational firm.

“Our international presence is weak,” said Smigel, adding he is wary to sell his business to any of the beauty giants who he said have approached him. “It takes two days to make a batch of my formulas — they’ll do it in an hour and a half and won’t keep to my proprietary [Calprox] formulation.” But he said he is interested in a strategic alliance to help grow sales internationally.

Smigel, a graduate of New York University’s College of Dentistry, became famous in 1979 when his teeth bonding method aired on the TV show, “That’s Incredible.” As a result, he is known as the father of aesthetic dentistry, as bonding developed the cosmetic side of dentistry. “People were still grinding down teeth and making caps. Bonding changed that,” he said.

Soon he sought to develop a tooth-whitening toothpaste for his patients with bonding. Slowly he “began to understand that calcium peroxide could whiten teeth and remove the stains” better than what other brands were using, such as silica. The problem, he said, was stabilizing it. But about four years into his research, Smigel found a formula that would not expand in a toothpaste tube.In the Nineties, Smigel’s wife, Lucia Smigel, took over the retail business and growing distribution and now serves as president and chief executive officer. His daughter, Bellanca Smigel Rutter, an attorney, serves as executive vice president of Supersmile and also appears on QVC with her dad to help sell Supersmile.

Fresh from a vacation and a lecture on Fisher Island in Florida over the holidays, Smigel reiterated that he doesn’t plan on retiring from any of it anytime soon.

“I have seen guys who’ve retired, and if you’re not current, your lectures are valueless. I always like to show something new.”

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