Rerun: What’s the difference between Colgate Total Gum Defense toothpaste and regular Total?

The Health Business Blog is taking a break this week and rerunning some favorite posts. If you want to comment, please do so on the original post.

I was in the pharmacy recently and saw that Colgate has added a Total Gum Defense line extension to its already large set of Total products. But this product makes exactly the same set of claims as the regular Total –”Helps prevent: Cavities, Gingivitis, Plaque. Fights Tartar, Freshens Breath, Whitens” –and lists the same active and inactive ingredients. Then yesterday I was at the dentist’s office, where there was a big basket of Total Gum Defense samples. I asked a periodontist there if there was any difference and she said, “Not as far as I know.”

I poked around the Colgate website and couldn’t find any differences mentioned there. (Could be hiding somewhere but it wasn’t apparent.) I did find it instructive that the site lacks the ability to compare the various Total products head-to-head, probably because the main differences are how they’re positioned to the market rather than anything substantive.

Finally I called Colgate customer service to ask my question. Judging from how quickly they came up with an answer, this is clearly a question they’ve been receiving a lot. The rep pointed to two differences:

  • The formulation is milder –using a different type of hydrated silica
  • The flavor is less minty –presumably making it more tolerable for those with sensitive gums

I guess it’s enough of a difference to be plausible, and maybe labeling regulations prevent them from being more explicit. But my guess is that Colgate Total Gum Defense is just a typical consumer product line extension, designed to grab a little more shelf space, appeal to a few more consumers, maintain price premiums, and keep generics at bay.

February 22, 2012