NAD Says Fast Relief Claims for Crest Sensitivity Toothpaste Should Be Discontinued

December 15, 2011

By Susan J. Matthees

The National Advertising Division (“NAD”) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus recently concluded that claims that Procter & Gamble’s Crest Sensitivity Treatment & Protection Toothpaste could provide relief from sensitive teeth “within minutes” should be discontinued.  Colgate-Palmolive brought the challenge against Procter & Gamble, alleging that Procter & Gamble had no support for the near-immediate relief claims.  The NAD concluded that although Procter & Gamble had robust studies to support the claims for relief from tooth sensitivity, the studies did not show clinically meaningful relief within minutes and thus those claims should be discontinued.  The case is a good reminder that having adequate substantiation requires more than a well-conducted study; the study results must support the actual claims being made. 

Crest Sensitivity & Protection Toothpaste claimed to provide “relief within minutes” for people with sensitive teeth so that users did not “have to wait to enjoy all [their] favorite hot and cold foods.”  The claims were linked by an asterisk to a disclaimer that explained “[f]or sensitivity relief within minutes, first brush sensitive teeth for 30 second each.”  The Crest toothpaste contains stannous fluoride, which Colgate-Palmolive acknowledged can be effective at reducing tooth sensitivity when used for several weeks.  However, Colgate-Palmolive alleged that Procter & Gamble merely repackaged its existing sensitivity product and added the rapid relief claims without conducting any new studies to support the claims.

Procter & Gamble did not have consumer perception evidence on the claims, so the NAD used its expertise to conclude that the advertisements conveyed the message that sensitive teeth suffers who used the product would experience a significant and immediate reduction or elimination of tooth sensitivity.  Procter & Gamble had studies to support that the toothpaste could reduce tooth sensitivity, and the NAD determined that many aspects of Procter & Gamble’s studies were robust – the studies were published, peer-reviewed, used an appropriate design (randomized, blind, parallel study groups), and used appropriate testing periods.  But, the NAD found that the decrease was not clinically meaningful until after at least three days of use.  Thus, the NAD concluded that Procter & Gamble’s claim for relief within minutes was “a far greater benefit to consumers” than the research supported and recommended that the claims be discontinued.  Procter & Gamble agreed to take the NAD’s conclusion into consideration.