Toothpaste manufacturers were berated by consumer watchdog Choice for claiming extra whitening properties of their branded products even if it contains the same ingredient as that of cheaper labels.
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The common ingredient among toothpaste makers is fluoride, a mild abrasive, humectants, thickener, sweetener and lathering agent. Some manufacturers add flavours to improve the taste, particularly for young children to encourage them to brush their teeth regularly.
"All toothpastes do basic jobs - they polish teeth and dislodge particles of food to avoid cavities and plaque," Choice spokesperson Ingrid Just pointed out.
To gain a larger share of the market, branded toothpaste producers used terms such as advanced whitening, multi-action, enamel-lock and micro-cleaning crystals. Ms Just pointed out that despite the use of such terms, none of the toothpaste are capable of whitening teeth because they lack bleaching agent.
Ms Just said Choice studied 13 adult toothpaste brands and found little difference in active ingredients across different price tags that range from $1.27 to $7.99. She also questioned the use of popular cartoon characters such as Spiderman and the Wiggles to attract young users.
"While dental experts recommend special low-fluoride toothpastes for very young children, those aimed at children over seven are nothing more than toothpaste manufacturers creating a niche market segment. That's not a problem for the child's teeth but it does potentially confuse parents who think they should buy special toothpaste for older children," Ms Just pointed out.
"In reality, you're paying extra for essentially the same product," she said.
The Australian toothpaste market is dominated by Colgate-Palmolive and GlaxoSmithKline which jointly account for 92 per cent of sales. Colgate's price is more than double that of home brands sold by the supermarket giants. A 110-gram tube of Colgate Advanced Whitening toothpaste has a price tag of $3.99 as opposed to Woolworths' Freshmint home brand and Coles' Smart Buy at $1.27 for a larger 150-gramme tube.
Other marketing ploys used by toothpaste makers include a claim of being 99 per cent fat free and the use of trademarked scientific names in their other products.
"Ninety-nine per cent fat free distracts the customer from the high levels of sugar in the product.... Also products such as cosmetics and yoghurts have pseudo-scientific names which are trademarked giving the consumer the impression they have scientific benefits-which may not have been proven," Ms Just added.
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