Oral Health Group

Marketing: White Space – The Battleground for Consumer Dollars

June 1, 2001
by Catherine Wilson

According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry’s 2000 Member Poll:

Teeth whitening/bleaching has increased by more than 300 percent over the past five years;


Direct bonding has increased by more than 100 percent over the past five years and veneers have increased by more than 250 percent over the same time period.

A sparkling white smile is of increasing importance to people of all ages who associate white teeth with health, youth and beauty. Sales of whitening products have exploded over the past few years, making whitening the biggest oral care trend in North America today.

Whitening teeth is one of the easiest things a person can do to improve their appearance. Studies show that more people are keeping their teeth for a lifetime, but a lifetime of coffee, tea, colas, red wine and smoking can take their toll on a once bright smile.

Consumers are clearly interested in the proliferation of over-the-counter products available as evidenced in the explosive sales figures in North America.

Dentist supervised bleaching is a safer, more effective way to whiten a smile. Dentists are designing treatment programs that are specific to a patients’ needs and can include:

Proper fitting mouth trays. OTC bleaching trays often do not fit properly. An ill-fitting tray can hold the jaws too far apart and may also leak, causing possible gum irritation and less bleaching.

Monitoring gum sensitivity. Dentists can vary the level of bleach used to minimize or avert discomfort.

Creating a treatment program to whiten natural and restored teeth. Teeth that have been restored with crowns, veneers or older fillings can be whitened with bleaching products to achieve a more uniform smile.

The type of bleaching treatment selected will depend on your patients’ priorities such as how much time do they have and how motivated are they to bleach at home. If they do not want to wear a mouth tray, in-office power bleaching is an option. Power bleaching can last from one to three years and tune-ups can be done quickly and with little additional expense.

Jordan Soll, DDS and cosmetic editorial board member for Oral Health wrote on vital tooth whitening in the July, 2000 issue:

“Investigative reports by NBC’s Dateline and ABC’s 20/20 have shown that commercially-available whitening products do not work very well. Due to their low cost and ease of purchase, these “over the counter” products have had a mass market appeal. Because the public is not aware of the factors that result in a predictable outcome, they are easily influenced by the media and motivated to make a low-cost, low-result investment.

“To ensure a successful result the patient should be properly diagnosed before proceeding with whitening. This would include a thorough medical history, oral examination, and a complete scaling and prophylaxis. It is also important to determine the origin of the offending stains.

“To achieve maximum compliance and results, give complete whitening instructions including demonstrating material placement. Before beginning the whitening process, determine the patient’s expectations. Monitor the treatment by scheduling assessment visits until the treatment is complete.

“Some practitioners are still caught in a paradigm and believe that whitening, even when properly dispensed, is carcinogenic and detrimental to the patients’ well being. Before depriving your patients of a treatment that may satisfy their need to improve their smiles it is important to research credible information and to make a truly informed decision. Remember, “you can’t steal second with one foot still on first.”

Cosmetic procedures in highest demand from patients under 20:

1. Whitening

2. Orthodontics

3. Composites

Cosmetic procedures in highest demand from patients aged 20-50:

1. Whitening

2. Veneers

3. Composites

Cosmetic procedures in highest demand from patients 50+:

1. Crowns and Bridges

2. Whitening

3. Veneers

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