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Washout: Millions Don’t Use Mouthwash

Oct 24, 2014

By Dean George

Author Robert Anthony once said, “Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle.” The fountain of knowledge notwithstanding, mouthwash manufacturers like Listerine, Scope, Oral-B and Colgate are in the gargling business, and their goal is to get more people to do just that.

While many of us want whiter teeth and luminous smiles, apparently that yearning doesn't extend to using mouthwashes that promise to kill germs and freshen breath. According to Ad Age, half of America doesn't swish and gargle any mouthwash product, and that trend has remained static for years.

Dentists who routinely discuss best oral health practices with patients know that won’t wash.

Listerine You Tube Channel

Even though toothpaste titans like Crest and Colgate-Palmolive entered the “Battle of the Bathroom Basin” the past few years, and all the mouthwash participants have added ingredients that promised to whiten and strengthen teeth, those efforts have failed to grow the gargle market.

Mouthwash manufacturer Listerine is hoping to change that with their “Heroic Habits” marketing campaign. The campaign launched in July and added its own Listerine YouTube channel in September. Its goal is improving oral health in general by focusing on Listerine products specifically.

Ad Age reported that the YouTube campaign made quite a splash in September with various videos featuring family life tips. Several of the campaign’s videos invite mall shoppers to “Show Us How You Keep Your Mouth Healthy.” On the 2-minute videos participants brush their teeth, floss and rinse on a TV-like bathroom set.

Fans of reality TV probably see nothing unusual about doing those things in a mall, but if nothing else the ads do get your attention because of a few unexpected twists.  For example, what participants don’t know is that there is a hidden camera and a dentist, Dr. Sako, watching them behind an impressive two-way mirror.

Naturally the products are Listerine oral health products and the bathroom set includes a James Bond-like revolving compartment that Dr. Sako uses to show-and-tell his tips on maintaining a healthy mouth.  Each video offers a different Listerine product: mouthwash, pocket mists, Listerine ultra-clean floss with “micro-groove technology,” alcohol-free mouthwash and more.

“As the category leader we feel the responsibility to improve oral health,” said Larry Page, senior marketing director at Listerine.

How effective the ads will be in the long term remains to be seen, but Page said Listerine is taking a different approach to get people to think about oral health differently.

Dental Wire is confident the mouthwash competition will come out in the wash. Bottom line: a recent industry analysis said that mouthwash is in the top 10 personal care categories in volume and pricing, so any manufacturer that captures a slice of the roughly 115 million Americans not currently using mouthwash could literally wash away the competition.


Photo source:, ListerineUS

Copyright 2014, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC  

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