The oral health category has grown significantly in pharmacy, but there is still much more to do in communicating key messages, one periodontist tells P3

According to a report from BBC News last November, GPs are coming under increasing pressure because too many people are visiting their surgeries with concerns about oral health issues. The poll of more than 1,000 doctors by market research company ComRes and the Association of Dental Groups (ADG) revealed that 87 per cent of GPs believe too many patients were turning to them for advice about common ailments such as toothache and mouth ulcers.

David Worskett, chair of the ADG, says that people with any concerns about their oral health should be visiting their dentist. However, according to National Smile Week statistics, while 50 per cent of people in the UK visit a dentist every six months, 21 per cent visit their dentist only annually and nearly one in ten people isn’t registered with a dentist at all. Other healthcare professionals, such as pharmacists, have an important role to play in providing oral care advice.

Brushing time

The Euromonitor Oral Care in the United Kingdom report, published in July 2013, revealed that consumers have been taking their oral health more seriously in recent years following advice from specialists and professionals, for example the advice to switch from manual to power toothbrushes. The oral care market grew by five per cent in current value terms in 2012 to reach sales of over £1 billion, while retail volume sales rose by two per cent.

However, National Smile Week statistics have revealed that 25 per cent of adults still don’t brush their teeth twice a day, including a third of men. Professor Iain Chapple, professor of periodontology and consultant in restorative dentistry at the University of Birmingham, says that, while it is essential that customers brush twice a day, the recommended two-minute brushing time is not nearly enough.

‘The “brushing for two minutes twice a day” rule is simply an empirical value used to get people brushing their teeth for longer,’ he says. ‘This Is better than just 30 seconds, which is what most people would manage otherwise, but it isn’t long enough for people at a higher risk of oral health problems.’ Up to 30 per cent of adults, rising to 60 per cent of over-65s, are at risk of gum disease or tooth decay. These people should be brushing for at least eight minutes twice a day, he says.

Oral care routines

Mhari Coxon, registered hygienist and professional relations manager at Philips Oral Healthcare, suggests that community pharmacies should Consider stocking a variety of toothbrushes at different price points.

‘The new DiamondClean Black, the first ever black Phillips Sonicare toothbrush, is clinically proven to remove up to seven times more plaque than a manual toothbrush, improve gum health in two weeks and whiten teeth in just one week,’ she says. ‘Stocking replacement brush heads as well as the actual power toothbrushes can add incremental sales for very little shelf space.’

According to Chris Dodd, managing director of Beverly Hills Formula, pharmacies should expect a trend for more functional products such as treatments for gingivitis, dry mouth and high fluoride mouthwashes over the coming year. ‘In February we are looking to launch a new range of professional products only available in pharmacies,’ he says. ‘We are also looking at making some products available online with online health information.’

Arm & Hammer’s marketing manager believes that having a comprehensive range of products can maximise the impact of oral care categories within pharmacies. Greater knowledge of the benefits of the ingredients of each product can put pharmacists in a good position to offer advice to customers seeking the best option for their oral care needs. Arm & Hammer will be continuing its ‘Taste Life’ Campaign throughout 2014. ‘The aim is to recruit more like-minded consumers who will help boost brand loyalty,’ says the brand’s marketing manager. Fans of Arm & Hammer are particularly loyal, says the brand.

Specialist advice

According to Sensodyne consumer research, 71 per cent of daily toothpaste users have sensitive teeth, yet only one in three buys a sensitive toothpaste. New Sensodyne Complete Protection combines all the benefits of a daily toothpaste with NovaMin, which is clinically proven to relieve the pain of sensitivity.

Arm & Hammer’s marketing manager says that there is an increased trend for cosmetic treatments specifically with the aim of whitening teeth.

Different brands use different technology, so it’s important that pharmacy staff understand the different technologies to be able to recommend the most effective option. It is also important to remember that all whitening toothpastes will only work to remove stains and restore natural whiteness, unless they contain a specific whitening ingredient such as peroxide.

‘Baking soda is clinically recognised as a powerful, yet non-abrasive and gentle, cleansing agent that breaks down during brushing to reach deep down into the microscopic crevices on the tooth surface,’ suggests the brand.

Beverly Hills Formula is promoting black as the new white when it comes to tooth whitening with the introduction of black whitening toothpaste. Perfect White Black toothpaste is formulated with activated charcoal, to whiten teeth and help combat bad breath.

Interdental cleaning

Professor Chapple says that while most people clean the biting surfaces of their teeth, they don’t use interdental products.

‘Customers only need to clean between their teeth once a day, but this should be for around 10 minutes,’ he says. ‘Interdental brushes are more effective than floss or tape. If people can get an interdental brush between their teeth, this is the first thing they can try.’

Nicky Godfrey, marketing assistant at TePe, says that TePe is pleased to announce the improved availability of its products, including interdental brushes, within the pharmacy community.

‘TePe is working closely with pharmacy wholesalers to promote the importance of cleaning inbetween teeth regularly to maintain healthy teeth and gums,’ she says.

Ms Coxon says that only 56 per cent of households have floss and of those only one-third floss daily. ‘We understand that flossing can be tricky and painful, which is why we launched Philips Sonicare AirFloss,’ she says. ‘This is a power flosser that makes flossing easy and quick – you can do your whole mouth in 30 seconds.’

People at risk of gum disease or tooth decay should be brushing for at least eight minutes twice a day


Professor Chapple stresses that while mouthwashes have a powerful role in reducing plaque and inflammation, these should be an adjunctant to brushing rather than a replacement. New mouthwashes launched in recent months include Listerine Advance Defence Gum Treatment, which helps prevent plaque germs from attaching to tooth surfaces.

Left untreated, gingivitis and bleeding gums can lead to further problems such as receding gums and even tooth loss. Many people with gum disease are unaware that they have a problem, says the brand. Remind customers that some prescription or OTC medications can reduce saliva in the mouth, making it more vulnerable to infections.

Another recent innovation in the market is Dentyl Active Intense with Extreme Mint flavour. Nina Prabhu, brand manager for Dentyl Active, says: ‘Our new Dentyl Active Intense mouthwash was introduced to broaden the brand’s appeal, especially among consumers who are looking for a strong flavour experience from an alcohol-free mouthwash. It brings an entirely new mouth feel experience to the Dentyl range.’


 This is a growing category for many community pharmacies. 

Fiona McElrea, Whithorn Pharmacy, Whithorn ‘This has been a growing category for us and there is a huge range of products available. We tend to buy in new promotional stock, see how it sells, then decide if we will continue to stock it in the future. Our space is quite limited, so we keep a close eye on what is selling. Popular brands include Colgate, Oral B, Polygrip, Fixodent and Corsodyl. This is one category that hasn’t been affected too much by eMAS here in Scotland, as we only prescribe chlorhexidine mouthwash. We also sell quite a lot of temporary fillings and replacement caps and we do get a lot of queries regarding oral health. Dental health is quite well marketed and one of the most successful areas in terms of retail.’


Ani Patel, Savages Pharmacy, Burnham on Crouch ‘Having two local dental practices recommending customers helps us to achieve good sales in dental health. Categorising and merchandising the section well is an absolute must for this to be successful. Overstocking with every brand under the sun can be an issue; from our experience, customers prefer to see fewer products, but still want some choice. We stock branded and cheaper alternatives and link selling mouthwashes and/or dental floss gives us the sales needed to invest back into the category. Keeping up to date with new products (such as CB12) and changing the range stocked to match media campaigns will generate repeat business. Giving customers the choice and inviting feedback keeps the category quite profitable.’ 


William Hughes, pharmacist at RJ Jones Pharmacy, Nefyn ‘Dental health has seen a growth in my pharmacy. The days of selling toothpaste in pharmacy are gone, but customers are coming in for more specialised products from dental health to whitening. I think that the industry would see a benefit in sales if the pharmacy team was fully engaged and trained on what’s available and how the different products complement each other. As a pharmacy team, we need to up our game and be aware of all the products available. We could be selling ourselves short by only having one product in stock when the patients need two or three to treat their dental health problem. We should have more of the specialised products that are treating issues such as halitosis and gingivitis. Teeth whitening is definitely a growth area in my pharmacy – those types of products have increased in sales.’


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