Why Toothpaste is Cool and Minty

ToothpasteYou’ve probably never considered the why behind the cool, minty favor of your toothpaste before. All you know is that you like it and it probably has something to do with making your teeth clean.

What if I told you that tingling feeling your love after brushing your teeth has absolutely nothing to do with having clean teeth?

It doesn’t. Not in the least.

Here’s the true story behind the cool sensation in toothpaste (paraphrased from Charles Duhigg‘s book, The Power of Habit):

One day in the early 1900s, a powerful American advertising executive named Claude Hopkins was approached with the idea of getting into the toothpaste business. Hopkins almost dismissed the idea because the toothpaste market was so small it was virtually nonexistent – only 7% of US households even had the product in their homes.

Dental hygiene was so bad at this time in America that in World War I, poor dental health was one of the top national security risks evaluated by the US War Department.

So, Hopkins, wanting to make money from this business venture, dove into dental textbooks in order to find something to use in his advertising efforts. And, after a lot of boring reading, he found exactly what he was looking for: mucin plaque.

That’s right, the filmly stuff on your teeth.

It had always been there and could be easily remedied by eating something or running your finger across your teeth – it just wasn’t a problem until Hopkins – an advertiser – pointed it out. He wrote:

“I resolved to advertise this toothpaste as a creator of beauty. To deal with that cloudy film.”

Hopkins marketed this new toothpaste as a product that could make your more beautiful my removing the “cloudy film” that makes your teeth less white as they could be.

Hopkins didn’t stop there, he also had citric acid and mint oil added to the toothpaste. Why? To give toothpaste a cool, minty tingling sensation. It was the reward for brushing your teeth!

Hopkins created a need (to remove the “cloudy film” from your teeth) and built-in the reward (the cool, minty tingling sensation).

His toothpaste was a hit.

In one decade, toothpaste usage went from 7% to 65% in the United States.

Later, when more established toothpaste companies realized that it was the sensation that was selling Hopkin’s toothpaste, they quickly began using additives in their toothpastes so they too could have the sensation.

Did the other companies need the additives?

Nope. Their toothpaste had the same cleaning power as Hopkins’.

So, why did they?

Because people get used to what they get used to.

Hopkins’ prowess made people equate clean teeth with the sensation.

Screen Shot 2014-02-22 at 11.31.47 AM
This minty phenomenon  still happens today – your toothpaste has the sensation.

“We can make toothpaste taste like anything—blueberries, green tea—and as long as it has a cool tingle, people feel like their mouth is clean. The tingling doesn’t make the toothpaste work any better.” (Tracy Sinclair, former brand manager for Oral-B and Crest Kids toothpaste)

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