Getting consumers to commit to oral hygiene is no longer like pulling teeth. Instead, with work from home causing people to look at themselves all day, the smile has become a top priority amongst consumers.
The oral care industry — a personal care staple that had little crossover with self care — is on the rise, expected to be worth more than $99.78 billion globally by 2030, according to Precedence Research, with new brands, brick-and-mortar treatment locations and consumer trends popping up daily. During a yearlong period, more than $9.7 billion was spent on oral hygiene in the U.S. with toothpaste, toothbrushes and mouthwash as the top three products, according to Nielsen.
One key area that is seeing disruption is a visit to the dentist’s office, viewed by many as a dreaded activity. In fact, about 36 percent of people in the U.S. have a fear of going to the dentist, according to the Cleveland Clinic. In an effort to change this, Tend has paved the way as the modern dentist office with 23 locations in New York City, New York; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts, and Nashville, Tennessee, and plans to expand into additional markets over the next two years.
In an attempt to modernize the experience and make it a visit people look forward to, the company has put an emphasis on design, convenience and fun. Tend’s “studios” don’t resemble a traditional dentist’s office, instead featuring vibrant turquoise accents and a streamlined aesthetic. The in-room experience is just as unique. Patients wear sunglasses so the light doesn’t irritate them, while a television on the ceiling offers entertainment during treatments. The booking and payment process is streamlined, as it can all be done via the Tend app or website. “Where the magic has happened for us is just really reconsidering all the elements to make it a lot easier for folks,” said Ryan Bennett, Brand vice president of Tend. The business, which first launched in 2019, has seen a 145 percent year-over-year growth of appointments between 2021 and 2022.
This design-focused thinking kickstarted many of the brands that entered the oral care category over the past decade with the intention to create aesthetically pleasing and efficacious products, similar to traditional beauty categories. Quip, which has raised more than $160 million in funding since 2014, was an early entrant. Founded by Simon Enever and Bill May who felt that the category overall was homogenous, lacking design and fun, Quip was built on three pillars: simplicity, accessibility and desirability.
“The problem with oral care is it has a very short lived instant satisfaction or reward,” said Enever, noting those factors ultimately lead to consumers not caring for their teeth properly. In an effort to address this issue, Quip launched its signature electric toothbrush in conjunction with an app which tracks user’s good oral care habits. “Incentivizing people to want to brush is the core most important thing we could do for oral health,” Enever said.
With this in mind, the brand has launched a slew of aesthetically pleasing oral health products including refillable floss, refillable mouthwash, gum and toothpaste. Most recently, it acquired Toothpic, a dental telehealth platform, to embed onto the Quip app, creating a centralized approach to all oral care needs.
Oral care brand Burst took a similar approach, with its three main pillars being fun, design and clinical credibility. The brand, which recently launched in 1,210 Walmart stores and expanded internationally with McCauley’s in Ireland, has partnered with more than 35,000 dentists and hygienists, known as the Burst ambassadors, since its founding to create in-demand and efficacious products. “We have this truth serum in the form of hygienists. They could never let us make anything that wasn’t perfect, and then as new science comes out or new technology comes out, we assess that,” said Burst cofounder, president and chief operating officer Brittany Stewart.
As brands continue to launch and expand offerings, retailers have responded to the growing category. This October, Bluemercury added vVardis to its offerings, marking the retailer’s first oral care brand partner. The vVardis brand, best known for its New White Enamel Anti-Aging Serum, $149, has taken a unique approach to the oral care category with luxury packaging and biomimetic technology.
The Bluemercury launch marks the first time the Swiss brand will be available in a brick-and-mortar store in the U.S. The entire line, whose products range from $19 to $199 will be available at 50 Bluemercury brick-and-mortar stores across the U.S., as well as online. “With oral care, we were specifically attracted to the teeth whitening angle as being part of the beauty routine. After researching the category, we definitely realize there’s an appetite for much broader oral care and oral wellness,” said Stephanie Keene, Bluemercury’s director of merchandising.
Similarly, Ulta has created an ever-growing oral category both in store and online, including brands like Oral-B, Crest, Colgate and Moon. “Following the pandemic, we introduced oral care essentials in-store and within The Wellness Shop at Ulta Beauty. This evolution reflects the extensive time we saw beauty enthusiasts dedicating to routines,” said an Ulta Beauty spokesperson. “Brands, such as Crest, speak to a well-established fan base while new, exclusive brands, such as Moon and Made by Dentists, deliver alternative options such as travel-friendly whitening pens, toothpastes and brushes.”
Moon, which bills itself as an “oral beauty” brand, is available at Ulta and Target. “We’re bridging the gap between beauty and oral care,” said founder Shaun Neff. “It started with an aesthetic miss that we saw on the market. Now as we see our business growing, we’re leaning heavy in more beauty type skus down the road. That’s kind of the lane that no one else was playing in.”
While the brand provides an array of oral care stock keeping units including toothbrushes and its newest water flosser, beauty-related options include its popular Teeth Whitening Pen in collaboration with brand partner Kendall Jenner, $19.99, and the Advanced Whitening Paste Booster Moon Dust, $14.99.
As the category continues to grow, innovation is at the forefront. Tend has committed to introducing innovative technologies and services as they continue to expand, including their Breezy Braces, which are installed on the backs of the teeth for an undetectable straightening treatment. Over a three-month period, the business saw a 133 percent increase in Breezy Braces consultation appointments. Quip has made tech a priority with its newest rechargeable electric toothbrush, which will last up to three months from just one charge.
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Procter & Gamble’s Oral Care division has also responded to the consumer need for simple and effective products. “Health and wellness are top of mind for consumers today, as well as a collective desire — particularly with Gen Z and Millennials — for simplicity,” said Carlos Dejesus, senior vice president for North American oral care. “To meet consumer demand and address this sentiment, Crest and Oral-B are making the oral care category easier and more accessible. Our latest oral care innovations such as Oral-B iO and Crest Whitening Emulsions allow consumers to personalize their product experience at every step of their daily wellness routine.”.
Consumers seem to be responding positively to the category’s expansion. While the category overall receives an average of 9.4 million monthly searches, whitening is the top oral care benefit searched, up 40.5 percent year-over-year, according to data from Spate. Consumers have also taken matters into their own hands experimenting with do-it-yourself trends like oil pulling, swishing oil around the mouth to remove bacteria and freshen breath, which has seen an over 21 percent growth in searches year over year according to Spate. Coconut oil is a top searched ingredient within the oral care category, with other elements like charcoal and honey emerging in new brands and products.
Similarly, cosmetic dentistry is on the rise, as consumers are more concerned with the appearance of their smile, whether it be straightening or whitening teeth. “For me, every day someone’s coming in for a smile makeover, four to five people a day,” said Dr. Michael Apa, aesthetic dentist and founder of Apa Beauty. “It has become much more of a general population, not so much for people in the know.” Glo Science, founded by dentist Dr. Jonathan Levine, recently launched its new Pro Power+ 16 Minute In-Office Whitening, which uses heated technology, so actives work eight times faster to whiten patients’ teeth up to 12 shades. It is the fastest and most efficient in-office whitening treatment, according to the brand.
SmileDirectClub revolutionized the industry by introducing the first telehealth platform for orthodontia. “SmileDirectClub’s primary revenue generator is our clear aligner offering,” said chief marketing officer John Sheldon, noting that more than 1.8 million people have thus far used the platform. The SmileDirectClub aligner treatment costs $2,050 up front or $89 per month, and the company accepts several types of insurance.
Social media has definitely accelerated the growth of such services, with consumers more educated than ever about new services and products. Dr. Rhonda Kalasho, dentist and owner of Glo Modern Dentistry in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, California, said she has seen an uptick in teeth straightening services, cosmetic dentistry and a general care for oral hygiene. “I actually see a trajectory in patient oral care and health over the years. People are taking a lot better care of their mouth,” she said.
David’s Professional Tongue Scraper, $14.95
Tongue scrapers are great for at-home oral care in order to clean away bacteria buildup that may cause bad breath, Kalasho said. This tongue scraper option from David’s, which launched in November, is made of 100 percent medical grade stainless steel and is sustainably designed for lifetime use.
Moon The Water Flosser, $69.99
Moon recently partnered with wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to create his second signature sku and the brand’s first water flosser, a product that has seen significant search growth year-over-year, according to data from Spate. “Being able to create Moon’s first water flosser and giving people a super convenient way to floss on the go was very exciting for me. I am constantly flossing, so it was really important to ensure the design was sleek, compact and easy to travel with,” Beckham Jr. said.
Quip Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush, $39.99-59.99
Quip recently launched its Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush, which features a two-minute timer for optimal brushing and can be partnered with the brand’s app to track oral care habits.
Before Purifying Toothpaste, $10-$12 (subscription-based)
Oral care brand Before launched this November with its signature purifying toothpaste in sensitive, classic and whitening formulas. The brand, founded by Steve Thorp and Jamie Collins, has plant-based sugarcane packaging that is 100 percent recyclable and cuts down the brand’s carbon footprint by 50 percent in comparison to plastic tubes.
Burst Teeth Whitening Strips, $29.99, and Teeth Whitening Trays, $79.99
With 6 percent hydrogen peroxide, Burst’s whitening strips work to remove stains and brighten teeth. In an effort to make the strips more user friendly, Burst recently relaunched the product with a new material. “The big complaint you have about strips is that they slide all over your teeth. We searched the world over. We found this no slip grip technology. It literally feels like you have Spanx on your teeth,” Stewart said.