Appeared In
Special Issue
Beauty Inc issue 08/10/2007

As sales of whitening kits decline, whitening gums and mouthwashes take hold.

This story first appeared in the August 10, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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.

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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.

According 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.

While 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.

Industry 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.


An emerging market trend is a number of products claiming to fight halitosis, better known as bad breath. Two well-known “bad breath doctors” have product lines aimed at treating halitosis.

Called Hollywood’s Kissing Doctor, Harold Katz is known for identifying the cause of bad breath with his patented “halimeter,” which measures bad breath and identifies its source, be it the tongue, tonsils or throat. As the creator of the TheraBreath System, Katz is currently working with QVC to introduce a full line of TheraBreath products for bad breath, whitening and other gum-related issues. Launching in October, the kit will contain a mouthwash, toothpaste, tongue cleaner and other on-the-go items with new ingredients like green tea extract and vitamin C. Katz will also launch two chewing gums aimed at younger consumers this fall—French Kiss and Guy Chewing gum, which both contain oxygen compounds, xylitol and a natural sweetener that helps fight tooth decay.

Bill Dorfman, the dentist from ABC’s hit Extreme Makeover, has created the three-step BreathRx Fresh Breath System, which includes a toothpaste, tongue scraper and antibacterial mouth rinse. Dorfman’s trademark BreathRX was originally sold through dentist offices, then launched in drugstores. Most recently it entered supermarkets. The line includes alcohol-free dental rinses, flosses, sprays and toothpastes.

SmartMouth also has a twice-a-day mouthwash designed to keep breath fresh all day long while GoSmile is using the same antioxidants found in cosmeceutical skin care products in its latest product, an alcohol-free mouthwash called Rinse. “We’re bringing a vitamins and antioxidant approach to oral care,” says New York dentist Jonathan Levine. “We’re protecting the mouth from environmental stresses and increasing its immunity.”


The oral care industry is also following an industry trend toward naturals, embracing organic products with herbs, vitamins and minerals.

Both Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive recently entered the natural personal care market. Colgate purchased Tom’s of Maine a little more than a year ago, and P&G launched Crest Nature’s Expressions, an assortment of flavored toothpastes containing natural essential oils this past spring.

“Consumers want a more mainstream natural product made from natural ingredients,” said P&G’s Dietz. “We worked with our consumers to find out what natural ingredients they would want in a toothpaste.”

Last year, Nature’s Gate introduced its Organics Advanced Care, a line of paraben-free organic oral care products, and last month, Kiss My Face launched a mouthwash along with Anti-Cavity, Tartar Control and Sensitive Whitening toothpastes. Available for $5.95, the certified organic aloe vera toothpastes will replace its Wake Up & Whitening toothpastes. The new formula is a blend of natural ingredients such as Icelandic moss extract and other herbs.

Also last month, Revitin launched a natural toothpaste infused with herbal, mineral and vitamin ingredients, designed to bring antioxidants into the mouth, while whitening teeth and freshening breath. Developed by dentist Gerald Curatola and his partner, David Shuch of CS Bioscience, the formula uses NuPath Complex, a patented formulation of vitamins, trace minerals and nutritional elements.


While mint is still king in the world of oral care, new flavors like vanilla, berry, citrus and bubble gum are popping up more frequently. Many experts believe this trend will become more popular with consumers’ desire to express their individuality, even through breath, much like fragrances.

C.O. Bigelow Apothecary carries six imported toothpastes including Breath Palette, a Japanese brand offering 32 flavors including rose, cola and café au lait. “We’re always looking to make mundane tasks more fun by bringing in wacky oral care products,” says Ian Ginsberg, owner of the classic New York-based apothecary.

For consumers who hate making a trip to the dentist’s office, the rise of dental spas should bring welcome relief. Designed to make dentist visits more pleasant, these spas offer everything from massages and facials to manicures in a serene atmosphere. Recent surveys show that up to 5 percent of U.S. dental practices now offer spa services. Some experts predict that as many as three quarters of U.S. dental practices will soon offer such services to boost sales. Patients visiting dental spas spend roughly 30 percent more than a traditional trip to the dentist office, according to The U.S. Dental Spa Market 2007 survey, conducted by Diagonal Reports. Many cosmetic dentists have already converted their businesses into dental spas, focusing on appearance enhancement versus overall dental upkeep. According to the report, cosmetic dental work accounts for 50 percent of income at dental spas.

For instance, New York’s Manhattan Dental Spa provides root canal patients with hot wax mittens. For an extra $95, patients can also receive an acupuncture session while undergoing dental procedures.

Located in Franklin, Tenn., Dental Bliss offers massages and acupuncture. Guests can also visit the Serenity Room’s waterfalls where they can relax in full-body massage chairs.