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60 years of ads on TV – leading the way for oral health?

25 September 2015

60 years of ads on TV – leading the way for oral health?

Hello readers and welcome to this week’s newsletter.  In a week where two people where two people were successfully prosecuted by the GDC for illegal tooth whitening, our team took a look at the what, the how and the why of tooth whitening in the UK which is well worth a look in the article section below.

And now to news! Most of the news we came across this week was a bit on the negative side. Some got a bit angry, some had a bit of a laugh and most were disgusted by the news that the Prime Minister is alleged to have done something rather unsavoury with a pig while at university. And everyone got extremely angry at a former hedge fund manager for raising the cost of a drug used to help people with AIDS, or in chemotherapy, by 5000%. One particular bit of news caught the eye though, and not in the negative ways mentioned above.

Adverts in the UK turned 60 this week! And the very first advert on British television? For toothpaste of course! It’s not half bad either. Sure, her brushing technique is a bit erratic and the phrase “It’s tingling fresh” never quite caught on, but it nevertheless contains some good oral health messages. This began to beg the question. Have adverts for products on TV been the best medium to get oral messages to the public in the past 60 years. Our answer? Quite probably yes.

Gibbs SR Toothpaste came back to us nearly 20 years later with this slightly cringy jingle about having strong teeth and strong gums.  This very 80’s ad from Aquafresh highlights how all the family benefit from a good fluoride toothpaste and brushing our teeth and gums. The high tech graphics from Colgate’s 1993 effort reinforce the fluoride from birth to adulthood. They’ve certainly come a long way, as this recent Oral-B effort shows.

But the message is largely remaining the same. Brushing your teeth, twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste, is the best way to take care of your oral health. And, as such a dominant medium, TV has come to reinforce these oral health messages in a way not replicated elsewhere. They may be selling private products, but they’re doing a public service.

We recently caught up with Dr Soha Dattani, Medical Director at GSK, and she had an interesting insight into how effective TV advertising can be at influencing the public to take on these messages. She told us: “The advertising is all about disrupting patients’ behaviour so they notice that spitting blood when they brush, which is often ignored, has a long term consequence. If there was blood coming from any other part of your body, you would go and see a medical practitioner. But there’s something about the oral cavity that we’ve almost accepted that bleeding is acceptable or we’re scared of the consequences so we don’t go and see our dental professional…So I think it’s really important that, as a company, it’s our job to drive patients, as consumers, to the dental professional at that early sign.”

TV has helped to reinforce these messages that dentistry has really sought to drive home for everyone. It has been an essential tool, and continues to be. The very first advert on television was for toothpaste. As people turn more and more to online streaming services and internet TV, then dentistry, and dental products, should still occupy a space within it.

What do you think? Have adverts on TV played such a big role in how the nation thinks about its oral health? Has it been a help or a hindrance? Comment below or send us your thoughts to

Until next time…

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