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Advertizing - Don't Believe it

Updated on July 25, 2010

Or at least don't take them at face value.

I'm sure you've seen that toothpaste ad on the telly where they put a blue light behind a model's front teeth. Surprise, surprise, the light shines through near the biting edge and we're led to believe that this is a bad thing, that the tooth has been thinned by 'acid erosion'.

Of course, the voice-over doesn't SAY the teeth have been damaged by acid erosion (the thing the toothpaste is designed to combat) but the implication is clear. They talk about acid erosion and then they show you an image of teeth that are 'thin' enough to allow light to pass through them. You're left to join the dots.

However, the, very important, fact that they leave out is that the 2 millimetres or so at the tip of a healthy tooth consists entirely of enamel, which is translucent. In other words, light is MEANT to shine through it. If the blue light didn't shine through, that would indicate that the tooth had been unduly worn down to the point where the underlying dentin was at the biting edge. Dentin does not allow a lot of light to pass through.

In fact, when we make crowns or veneers we seek to recreate this characteristic of healthy teeth and make the tips translucent, which helps them look more natural.

I suppose the cynical amongst us might think there is a very good reason why the advertisers don't say outright that there is a link between what they are telling us and what they are showing us. We might also suspect that their lawyers might have had a hand in that decision. I couldn't possibly comment.

The sad thing is that the toothpaste in question is actually a very good product. Presumably, without the dramatic demonstration of apparent catastrophe, it just wasn't 'sexy' enough to sell. I wonder what that says about a society where it takes an illusion to make something 'real' enough to be worthwhile?

My next hub will explain the reality of acid erosion. It will also cover abrasion, with which erosion is often confused.

Tom Nolan is a dentist with over 30 years’ experience.

If you found this article useful, you should check out his book

Watch Your Mouth – An Owner’s Manual.

Also available as a download. This book is packed with practical advice and will tell you everything you need to know to keep your mouth healthy, trouble-free and beautiful for the rest of your life.

You can get in touch via Tom's practice: The Dentist in Town.

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