Every day I feel like we're bombarded more and more by marketing hype, half-true slogans, and sometimes outright lies in an effort to get us to buy things we don't need. That sounds extremely cynical, but when it comes to products that should be based on science, the marketing should be irrelevant. Oral care products fall into this category, so let's look at some of the phrases that you can look out for to be a savvy consumer.
"Tested by dentists"
That's great to know. I should hope that it's someone with dental training who is testing dental products! What I'm more interested in though, is what are the results of the tests. It's not much good if all the dentists in the world tested a product, and found that it was rubbish.
Clinical testing means a product has been used in real life, in real people. It's very different to lab testing, which can provide valuable information, but is not as relevant when it comes to a product that's going to be used in the real world. If something has been clinically tested, and clinically proven to be effective, that's a good assurance that's it's worthwhile. Be wary of products that show amazing results in lab tests, but have not been clinically tested and proven.
"Kills 99% of germs"
I always question exactly what this means. Does the product kill 99% of the volume of germs? Meaning, if there are 100 individual bacteria sitting on your tongue, does it kill 99 of them leaving one lonely bacterium behind? Or does it kill 99% of the types of bacteria? Most of the microbes living in your mouth are harmless, and even useful. Only some will cause disease, so do you really need to be killing every poor little bug in your mouth? I'm more interested in exactly which germs will be killed, what kind of staying power the antibacterial has in the mouth, ("substantivity" is the technical term"), and whether or not the product has been clinically proven to be of use.
Some companies seem to have a funny idea of what is natural, organic, and environmentally friendly. I recently picked up a brand of toilet paper that was swathed in green and claimed to be made from recycled materials. On closer inspection, I saw that the luxurious 3-ply toilet paper contained only 1 ply that was recycled. When choosing an oral health product, have a look at the ingredients list for yourself rather than relying on buzz words. Also keep in mind that natural doesn't necessarily mean it's a better product. Snake venom is natural, arsenic is natural, carbon dioxide is organic. These words have various meanings which can be twisted depending on the motives of someone selling a product, so try to look past the smokescreen and find the truth.
Not all marketing is intended to deceive, but unfortunately it's not always easy to immediately tell what is scientific truth and what is hype. Next time you're buying an oral health product, be smart and flip the box or bottle over to read the back, and you're more likely to make a choice that will be worth your money.