by Princewill Ekwujuru
A wave of product reformulation is sweeping through the toothpaste segment of the healthcare industry driven by the need to address oral health challenges among the populace.
The oral health challenges include increasing incidence of dental caries, otherwise known as tooth decay, Gum Disease (Periodontal), bad breath (Halitosis), sensitive tooth and coloured tooth.
Dental experts noted that increasing incidence of dental caries has become a source of worry and that a greater per cent of all tooth-related issues emanate from poor oral hygiene.
They also stressed that dental caries is a major oral health issue affecting 60 to 90 percent of schoolchildren and the vast majority of adults, while periodontal is believed to affect 79 to 90 per cent of the Nigerian population.
The wave of product reformulation to address these challenges is led by five major toothpaste brands namely:
Close Up and Pepsodent manufactured by Unilever Nigeria Plc; Oral B, produced by Procter and Gamble (P&G); Colgate, manufactured by Colgate Palmolive and Sensodyne, produced by GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Plc.
The product reformulation efforts are reflected in the introduction of improved and innovative toothpaste brands and brand extensions such as herbal toothpaste, gel, and fluoride.
Furthermore, are the various sensitization programmes introduced through campaigns to raise awareness on the need for proper dental care.
For example, Close Up introduced the ‘Brush Day and Night’ campaign which was later adopted by some of the brands. It also introduced a campaign that it contains fluoride to fight mouth odour.
Pepsodent also introduced a campaign to showcase its ability to fight food deposits on tooth and tooth whitening agents.
On its part, Oral B introduced the “Sharing Smiles” campaign, taking advantage of its Mobile Dental Clinic activations.
Likewise, Colgate conducted a campaign to sensitize consumers on its tooth whitening ability, cavity protection, ability to fight mouth odour with fluoride.
On its part, Sensodyne embarked on a campaign tagged, ‘Sensitive tooth” to publicise its ability to relieve sensitive tooth and bleeding gum.
Speaking to Vanguard Companies & Markets, a civil servant with the Lagos state government, Ojo Alagbe, said: “For me, I like Close Up toothpaste because of its fresh breath and its red colour.
Earlier I had this foul smell from my mouth, I think that is past now. I feel relaxed and confident when I brush with it. You know the brand has been here with us for a long time. It is difficult to switch brand, especially a brand that you feel is good for you.”
A businesswoman, Mercy Olanrewaju who plies her trade in Ikeja said: “I have been having this chilling sensation on my teeth whenever I eat hot food or take cold water until Sensodyne toothpaste was introduced to me. Today that problem is minimised.”
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“I like white teeth and that is why I have been in love with Pepsodent because it has helped me to keep my teeth white and shining as well as the removal of food deposit on the teeth,” said Amaka Ifekandu, a trader in Ikeja, Lagos.
Also speaking to Vanguard C&M, Ayo Samuel, a trader at Idumota market, Lagos said: “I hate to see caries on my children’s tooth and that is why I started earlier enough to manage their tooth myself and that brought me to the use of Colgate”.
Obi Igbokwe who complained of having bleeding gum said: “My problem with bleeding gum has become a thing of the past since I started using Sensodyne.
Speaking to Vanguard C&M, Dr. Oyinkanmi Folarin, a Community Consultant Dentist, whose office is located along Isheri road, said the concern of experts is that the majority of cases on caries are untreated ultimately resulting in pain and tooth loss.
Statistically, he said: “We have a prevalence of about 90 per cent untreated caries. More importantly, is the early childhood caries. We tend to see caries in children.
We have a prevalence of 6.5 to 22.5 per cent. Over 95.6 per cent of early childhood caries is untreated. On the global average, we have a global prevalence of 35 per cent of untreated caries.
Nigeria is not doing much, her case is worse than the global average of untreated caries.
“On the other hand, gum diseases have been found to be between 79 to 90 per cent of the Nigerian population.
What we are saying is that all the studies that have been done between the 1960s till date reveal that we have a lot of periodontal disease in Nigeria.
If we have a lot of gum diseases in Nigeria and this is being linked to systemic disease, then we have a lot of work to do because this might lead to increased morbidity in the nation.”
Another dentist who works with the Military Dental Hospital in Yaba, Lagos who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that diet and time factors play major roles in development or care for caries.
She posited that the type of diet taken, especially those with high refined sugar and the time the diet stays in the mouth are major causes of dental caries, advising that it was best to abstain from such diets or better still, take them with meals.
“Normally, we have bacteria in our mouth. The bacteria work on this refined sugar to produce a dilute acid, which results in the dissolution of hard tooth tissue. Each time we take a lot of all these high-refined sugar, it retains as substrate at different corners in our mouth and then the bacteria in our mouth feed on them to cause havoc.
Sometimes, it also results in swollen gum which bleeds each time you touch it,” she said.
A Brand Consultant, Marcel Igboanugo of Macerix Consult, Owerri, said: “My experience at handling toothpaste brand activations is to help address specific needs and solve everyday problems of consumers within the oral care sector.
We have helped to roll out products that impact on healthy lifestyle positively. So we have often offered the best products and make them available in the right places to deliver the best benefits to consumers.
“In making sure the impact is felt, we made sure we collaborate with all stakeholder(s) who are often in the business of addressing oral health issues and the needs of consumers. We had partnered the Nigerian Dental Association (NDA) to deliver superior oral care to consumers through our client.”
On what Oral B has been doing to address some of the oral health challenges, Brand Manager, Africa, Oral Care (Design & Delivery) for P&G, Tolu Pogoson said: “Oral B roughly nine years ago has partnered with dentists to elevate the role of Oral Health in Nigeria through its Mobile Dental Clinic (MDC) program. In this program, Oral B has educated and provided free dental checks to over 10 million Nigerians since inception. Our plan is to continue these efforts in educating the consumers on the implication of protecting their oral health and help them to recognize preventive care as the best option.”
“This time last year, we made a pledge to reach 10 million more Nigerians with the MDC program in the next four years. We are very much on track to achieve that goal.” However, Unilever Plc, GlaxoSmithKline, did not respond to inquiries from Vanguard C&M to as at the time of going to press.