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View Full Version : Why do we need so many different kinds of toothpaste?



clop
2010-Jun-02, 07:43 AM
For most applications it is sufficient to design and manufacture only one product per specific application per company. e.g. Whiteboard Cleaner for cleaning whiteboards, Canned Air for blowing dust off things, chalk for writing on a blackboard, diesel for motorcar engines etc.

So what gives with toothpaste? Our teeth are all made of the same stuff, dentine and enamel, so why is there a need for so many different kinds of toothpaste? I can understand the need for having different flavours but look - here is a list of just the Colgate adult toothpastes currently available in my local supermarket.

Sensitive Multi-Protection
Sensitive Enamel Protect
Sensitive Whitening
Sensitive Fresh Stripe
Icy Blast Whitening
Baking Soda and Peroxide
Advanced Whitening Tartar Control
Advanced Whitening Regular
Total Whitening
Total Advanced Fresh
Total Advanced Clean
Max White
Max Fresh Clean Mint
Max Fresh Cool Mint
Total
Total Mint Stripe
Triple Action
Cavity Protection Blue Minty Gel
Cavity Protection Cool Mint
Cavity Protection Regular

(and this does not include any of the children-specific toothpastes)

and yet when I look at the boxes there are only three active ingredients. Sodium Fluoride/Monofluorophospate, Zinc Citrate and Triclosan.

Some protect enamel, some whiten your teeth, some prevent cavities, some prevent bad breath, some are kind to sensitive teeth. Surely Colgate could make one kind of toothpaste that does all these things? Why do we need so many different toothpastes to do exactly the same job?

clop

Van Rijn
2010-Jun-02, 07:45 AM
Marketing.

Strange
2010-Jun-02, 08:58 AM
Capitalism.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Jun-02, 10:12 AM
A brand with X types of toothpaste when the competition has Y types will have X/(X+Y) of the shelf space.
If Y is higher than X, the competition will have a higher chance of getting a sale if people grab the first thing they see, so there's the idea that more types will get bigger sales because you get a larger part of the shelf space.

clop
2010-Jun-02, 11:15 AM
A brand with X types of toothpaste when the competition has Y types will have X/(X+Y) of the shelf space.
If Y is higher than X, the competition will have a higher chance of getting a sale if people grab the first thing they see, so there's the idea that more types will get bigger sales because you get a larger part of the shelf space.

That sounds like a very cynical way of looking at it.

But it does explain why a manufacturer with over 50 years of research and development is still unable to manufacture the ideal product.

Strange
2010-Jun-02, 12:00 PM
That sounds like a very cynical way of looking at it.

In this case, I suspect it is realistic rather than cynical. I suspect there is also a "mental shelf space" factor as well: if a customer thinks "I like the sound of that one" you have a better chance of them picking one of yours if you have a greater variety of brands out there.

Swift
2010-Jun-02, 01:28 PM
So what gives with toothpaste? Our teeth are all made of the same stuff, dentine and enamel, so why is there a need for so many different kinds of toothpaste? I can understand the need for having different flavours but look - here is a list of just the Colgate adult toothpastes currently available in my local supermarket.

Sure, some of it is marketing.

But there are also probably real differences in needs from person-to-person. Sure, teeth are all made of the same stuff, but there is a lot more factors that impact the condition of your teeth, including mouth chemistry and bacterial populations, and these vary from person to person. For example, for most of my life, I have had almost no problem with cavities, but I have a lot of problems with plaque and tartar.

There are also cosmetic differences that people want, particularly related to teeth whitening.

Lastly, some people like gels, some like pastes.

Could they make one one toothpaste that did it all - maybe; I don't know if there are problems with such a formulation, such as incompatible ingredients. But I bet it would cost more to make - do you want to pay for a whitening toothpaste if you don't want your teeth whiter?

Murphy
2010-Jun-02, 02:39 PM
As has been said, no other reason then cynical marketing.

Something like this... Toothbrush Marketing (http://vidbunker.com/toothbrush_marketing_that_mitchell_and_webb_look).

"They'll Brush their tongues!" :lol:

Larry Jacks
2010-Jun-02, 03:10 PM
For most applications it is sufficient to design and manufacture only one product per specific application per company. e.g. Whiteboard Cleaner for cleaning whiteboards, Canned Air for blowing dust off things, chalk for writing on a blackboard, diesel for motorcar engines etc.

So what gives with toothpaste? Our teeth are all made of the same stuff, dentine and enamel, so why is there a need for so many different kinds of toothpaste?

Have you ever tried on a piece of clothing that claims "One size fits all?" If so, how well did it actually fit you? Some of the proliferation in products such as toothpaste or breakfast cerial is nothing more than marketing but a lot of it is because different people have different needs and desires. This is the same reason why there are dozens of different makes and models of cars, trucks, and SUVs on the market. Each manufacturer is trying to sell vehicles that meet the needs and desires of different people. It's no different for toothpaste.

Back in 1959, then US VP Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Khrushchev held what came to be known as the Kitchen Debate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitchen_Debate). IIRC, one of the points they discussed covered the OP of this thread. Nixon talked about how competition between different manufacturers of the same product led to better products while Khrushchev considered that wasteful. Khrushchev's position was that there should only be one of each type product so that resources wouldn't be wasted on needless duplication. However, if that's the case, there is never any incentive to make a better or cheaper product.

Back to toothpaste and tooth brushes, did you know that both of them were invented in Alabama? If they'd been made anywhere else, they'd be called "teethpaste" and "teeth brushes."

Just a little humor at the expense of my home state. We Alabamians can laugh at ourselves, given that our unofficial state motto is "Thank God for Mississippi!"

mike alexander
2010-Jun-02, 04:01 PM
I think it's because we have many different kinds of tooths.

Given what I saw down there, in some parts of southeastern Ohio 'toothpaste' might actually be correct as well.

BigDon
2010-Jun-02, 05:11 PM
Clop, *you* don't need all those kinds of toothpaste, but *we* do.

Trebuchet
2010-Jun-02, 08:38 PM
A brand with X types of toothpaste when the competition has Y types will have X/(X+Y) of the shelf space.
If Y is higher than X, the competition will have a higher chance of getting a sale if people grab the first thing they see, so there's the idea that more types will get bigger sales because you get a larger part of the shelf space.

Since my first thought on seeing the OP was "shelf space" I entirely agree. Big producers have been proliferating brands more and more in order to grab it. They require the merchants to carry ALL their brands, not just the main ones. This is why there are now about 15 kinds of Wheat Thins. I expect the original outsells all the others combined, but they all take up space, which is not usable by someone else. The smaller guys can get crowded out entirely.

Take a look in the chips row sometime. ("Crisps" to you folks in the UK.) You'll find about 80% of the space taken up by Frito-Lay products. You may have to look closely, some will look on the front like they are some other brand but say F-L on the back in smallish print.

ETA: According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_Thins), there are 17 varieties of Wheat Thins!

uncommonsense
2010-Jun-02, 10:05 PM
Well regardless of how many kinds of toothpaste they need make, their most profitable marketing techniques are to make the spout a little wider (causes you to use more product), and they also make the portion of the tube just near the spout way more stiff than it needs to be - so you can't get that last bit out.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Jun-03, 01:22 PM
That sounds like a very cynical way of looking at it.
When discussing marketing, I find it very hard not to take the cynical way of looking at things.
It is after all the art of making people believe they're going to feel good about buying things they don't need and likely have no use for.

NEOWatcher
2010-Jun-03, 02:34 PM
Take a look in the chips row sometime...
I really don't think that you can compare toothpaste with food products. Food products have a lot more variability due to personal differences in taste, and are not considered a product that serves a function.

If people did think taste when it came to toothpaste, I would think there would be a lot more flavors than mint and cinnamon. (I did see lemon once and tried it. Yuck)

I'm not sure how the chemical make-up differs in the effects of the formula. One thing I do know is that the whitener toothpastes are usually harsher on the teeth. I'm sure there are some similar trade-offs.

Swift
2010-Jun-03, 02:40 PM
If anything, the problems I have with product selection is that there is not enough selection. Take cell phones for example. All I want it a phone: no texting, no surfing the web, no camera, none of that "stuff". Yet walk into any cell phone company and you are hard pressed to find such a thing. All kinds of different phones with features I don't want, but virtually nothing with what I want.

Even with more "disposable" products, I see similar problems. For example, I really struggle to find ready-to-eat breakfast foods that are low fat, at least some what healthy, but don't taste like garbage. The few choices seem to be variants of the same "granola bar" type product. Everything else is either very high fat, comes only in one flavor, or tastes terrible.

Toothpaste... I have no problem finding one that works for me.

NEOWatcher
2010-Jun-03, 03:02 PM
If anything, the problems I have with product selection is that there is not enough selection...
I agree with your entire post. My cell phone is over 5 years old. I don't want to give it up.

Even chips. About 20 years ago, I used to be able to buy baked potato chips in the normal stores. No; not the processed, reconstituted potato paste formed things, but actual slices of potatoes baked and seasoned that actually tasted like potatoes.

And sugarless cookies? There's plenty on the market. There's none at the grocery that I normally shop at, and only occasionally at another store.

TrAI
2010-Jun-03, 06:27 PM
Hmmm...

There are actually many more ingredients that has a purpose than those you listed, only they do not tend to be listed as "active".

It is true that it can be a bit confusifying with all those different ones that seem so similar in function. but the whitening ones general are more aggressive in abrasive action and may contain other whitening chemicals something not everyone would want, as it does add some wear on the teeth, the sensitive ones are for people with teeth that are especially sensitive to things like temperature, and that might make eating hot or cold foods painful, and use chemicals that reduce this sensitivity, and so isn't necessary for everyone, and so on.

EDG
2010-Jun-04, 03:45 AM
We don't need toothpaste at all.

I haven't used any in years (it makes me retch, not a good thing when brushing teeth) - but my dentist advised me that it's not necessary at all in order to clean teeth. Toothpaste usually just has a few chemicals to help clean the teeth a bit better, a minty taste, and often has fluoride in it (which is necessary for healthy teeth, but can be acquired through other means), but the thing that actually gets the teeth clean is the scrubbing with a brush - do that properly and thoroughly and that's all you need.

I've not had many fillings since I stopped using it, my breath's fine, and my dentist hasn't complained about the state of my teeth at all. I have a fluoride Oral-B rinse that I dip my brush into before i brush my teeth at night and that gives me all the fluoride my teeth need.

Quantum_Raider
2010-Jun-04, 10:50 PM
Take a look in the chips row sometime. ("Crisps" to you folks in the UK.) You'll find about 80% of the space taken up by Frito-Lay products. You may have to look closely, some will look on the front like they are some other brand but say F-L on the back in smallish print.

hmmm ... never heard of Frito-Lay before and checking their website doesn't ring any bells either ... will investigate the next time I go shopping.

JustAFriend
2010-Jun-05, 10:56 PM
If you dislike having choices, you could go back to the Soviet era style of living:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/drinksmachine/433847950/

Didn't work for them, either....

Albion
2010-Jun-06, 12:44 AM
Although none of it is really any better then any of the rest, all together they reach all parts of the population. Some people want white teeth, and some want fresh breath. There's also a competition between manufacturers. If Company A offers a whitening toothpaste then Company B must also offer it else lose an entire market. So to answer your question, it's a way to maximize profits and keep up with or get ahead of competition.

-Al

Trebuchet
2010-Jun-06, 03:16 AM
hmmm ... never heard of Frito-Lay before and checking their website doesn't ring any bells either ... will investigate the next time I go shopping.

Perhaps they're not to be found in NZ -- better for you if so. F-L is (or at least was, they may have been spun off) a division of Pepsi-Cola. They are absolutely dominant in the chips/crisps market in the USA. Major brands include Fritos corn chips, Lay's Potato Chips (the first mass-marketed chip, I think), Doritos, Cheetos, and such. But they've sucked up may smaller labels as well.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frito-Lay

clop
2010-Jun-06, 03:53 AM
Although none of it is really any better then any of the rest, all together they reach all parts of the population. Some people want white teeth, and some want fresh breath. There's also a competition between manufacturers. If Company A offers a whitening toothpaste then Company B must also offer it else lose an entire market. So to answer your question, it's a way to maximize profits and keep up with or get ahead of competition.

-Al

I would have thought that everyone wanted white teeth, fresh breath, mild alkalinity, no cavities and no pain. Surely there can't be people who want fresh breath and yellow teeth, or that want fresh breath but don't care about caries. Therefore the only thing I can think of that would matter to the individual is the flavour. Hence, you have Strong Mint and Mild Mint. End of story.

What is toothpaste anyway.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Jun-06, 04:09 AM
If you dislike having choices, you could go back to the Soviet era style of living:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/drinksmachine/433847950/

Didn't work for them, either....
That's not scarcity of choice, that's not enough production reaching shelves.
Very different problem.

TrAI
2010-Jun-06, 05:29 AM
I would have thought that everyone wanted white teeth, fresh breath, mild alkalinity, no cavities and no pain. Surely there can't be people who want fresh breath and yellow teeth, or that want fresh breath but don't care about caries. Therefore the only thing I can think of that would matter to the individual is the flavour. Hence, you have Strong Mint and Mild Mint. End of story.

What is toothpaste anyway.

Well, I believe most toothpastes do everything to some degree, but some people are more affected by some problems than others, and so might want formulations with added effect on that specific problem or a set of problems.

Also, I expect that there is a lot of psychology in product sales. People will have a tendency to avoid a product that they feel is embarrassing(or offensive in some way), for example, someone might be embarrassed to have to buy a paste that is advertised to be effective against bad breath, especially if he does not think he has it, and so might choose a cheaper "standard" toothpaste instead, or even worse, choose one from the competition. I know it seems unlikely, but people make these sorts of choices consciously and subconsciously all the time, and since there will always be some manufacturers of the standard toothpastes, you better have that in the line too.

So having a large line of toothpastes available may make people buy the more expensive ones, since it makes it easier for them to find one that conform to their view on what they need.

There is also the problem of compatibility of ingredients, for example, I have a toothpaste here that contains dicalcium phosphate dihydrate and calcium glycerophosphate, an abrasive and re-mineralization aid, but these will interfere with the functioning of the common sodium fluoride, so they have reduced the sodium fluoride content and added 1000ppmF of sodium monofluorophosphate instead. Other toothpastes might use stannous fluoride for the same problem, but these are more expensive than sodium fluoride, and there may be licensing/patent concerns, also SnF2 might cause staining, and so may need a formulation that reduces the risk of this. If all you wanted was the abrasive effect, using a hydrated silica abrasive would make it possible to use sodium fluoride, but I do not think silica helps remineralization, and being formulated to help with this is one of the selling points of this paste, apparently...

Anyway, my point is that formulating a toothpaste with all the additional strengths is difficult and might result in having to use more expensive ingredients.

NEOWatcher
2010-Jun-07, 02:46 PM
If you dislike having choices, you could go back to the Soviet era style of living:That's not scarcity of choice, that's not enough production reaching shelves.
Very different problem.
A little bit of both with the Soviet era.
I was in the Czech Republic about 40 years ago at the age of 8. The choice of beverages was so bad, that my parents let me drink beer quite often.

tlbs101
2010-Jun-07, 05:07 PM
[I]....

Just a little humor at the expense of my home state. We Alabamians can laugh at ourselves, given that our unofficial state motto is "Thank God for Mississippi!"

I was under the impression that is the unofficial state motto for New Mexico.

.

Larry Jacks
2010-Jun-07, 10:40 PM
I was under the impression that is the unofficial state motto for New Mexico.

If it is, then they copied us!

For those who may not understand, when I was growing up in Alabama, whatever we'd be ranked 49th at, Mississippi would invariably be ranked 50th.

Albion
2010-Jun-08, 04:01 AM
I would have thought that everyone wanted white teeth, fresh breath, mild alkalinity, no cavities and no pain. Surely there can't be people who want fresh breath and yellow teeth, or that want fresh breath but don't care about caries. Therefore the only thing I can think of that would matter to the individual is the flavour. Hence, you have Strong Mint and Mild Mint. End of story.

What is toothpaste anyway.

You assume people put the same level of desire on all aspects of the product. Don't underestimate how susceptible people are to the effects of psychological marketing. Truth or not, it is very very compelling to many many people.

A guy may read an article in Maxim about how yellow teeth turn women off at the bar. The article, in turn, makes him feel a bit insecure about the color of his teeth. The next time he goes to the drug store to pick up some sundries he might be looking (consciously or subconsciously) for a toothpaste that has "Whitening" written on the package. Of course he still want fresh breath and less cavities, but in this case the brands that don't offer the correct marketing on the package lose the sale.

Strange
2010-Jun-09, 11:46 AM
What is toothpaste anyway.

A paste made from ground up teeth. On the homeopathic principle.