Do You Need Daily Treatment to Repair Damaged Enamel?

Does a toothpaste provide “next level” fluoride technology that you need to use every day? You know the answer. 

The commercial keeps airing on TV with annoying frequency. She’s a dentist, she wears a white coat, and viewers are expected to assume she is offering good advice. I find her voice irritating, but that would be beside the point if her information were accurate. It isn’t. She is providing inaccurate information invented by marketers to sell a supposed remedy.

Consumers may find her advice credible. They have come to expect successive improvements in preventive dental care. Instead of just cleaning teeth any old way, they were told to use a toothpaste with fluoride. Then they were told they must floss regularly. They were advised to make more frequent trips to the dentist (every 6 months instead of yearly or when problems arise). In that context, they might not be surprised to hear that they need daily treatment to repair damaged enamel. But they don’t.

What she says: We have to be able to repair our tooth enamel on a daily basis. With Sensodyne Pro-Namel Repair Toothpaste more vital minerals enter deep into the enamel surface (compared to a non-optimized fluoride toothpaste), giving you an opportunity to repair acid-weakened enamel. Use twice daily. It’s amazing. It will always be her go-to toothpaste.

What the BBB says: Two years ago, the BBB National Programs National Advertising Division recommended discontinuation of the commercial because it makes these false claims:

Express claims:

  • ProNamel toothpaste provides “next level” or “innovative” sodium fluoride technology, beyond the typical remineralization effect marketed for decades.
  • ProNamel toothpaste heals cracks “deep within the tooth [or enamel] surface”.
  • ProNamel toothpaste “repair[s] what has already been damaged”, including the cracks in teeth shown in the advertisement.

Implied claim:

  • The product demonstration falsely communicates that ProNamel toothpaste fills and heals cracked enamel.

The manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, said it would comply with the NAD’s recommendations, but the deceptive ads continue.

The reality

Once lost, tooth enamel will never grow back or be replaced (although admittedly there are experimental treatments under development that may someday be recommended for that purpose). The BBB complaint explained:

Exposure to acids from foods or drinks can weaken and destroy tooth enamel. Once enamel is lost it will never grow back or be replaced. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in most toothpastes. While fluoride helps to repair and strengthen weak spots on existing enamel, it cannot repair or strengthen tooth enamel that no longer exists, including enamel that has been cracked, chipped or otherwise permanently destroyed.

The dramatization in the video conveyed a misleading message.

Established ways to maintain healthy enamel

  • Good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and mouthwash
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks
  • Fluoride (in water and/or in toothpaste)
  • Stop teeth grinding (bruxism)
  • Treat acid reflux
  • See your dentist regularly

Conclusion: Don’t believe everything you see on TV

No, you don’t need a special toothpaste to repair damaged tooth enamel on a daily basis. Remember: TV commercials are designed to sell products, not to impart good science-based information.

This article was originally published in the Science-Based Medicine Blog.

Dr. Hall is a contributing editor to both Skeptic magazine and the Skeptical Inquirer. She is a weekly contributor to the Science-Based Medicine Blog and is one of its editors. She has also contributed to Quackwatch and to a number of other respected journals and publications. She is the author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and co-author of the textbook, Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

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