The past, present and future of oral health

The past, present and future of oral health

26 Jan 2011

Welcoming delegates from around the world, including Brazil, Hong Kong, Mexico and the USA, the one-day Sensodyne 50th Anniversary Meeting 2011 took place at Hotel Auditorium Madrid, Spain, in January 2011. Hosted by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare, the Meeting aimed to celebrate the worldwide-recognised brand, look at what it’s been up to in the past 50 years, what it has done for oral health and what its future plans are.

 With the theme of past, present and future, Dr Stuart Smith, Vice President, Global Dental Scientific and Professional Communications, R&D, GSK Consumer Healthcare, opened the Meeting with a showreel of memorabilia, which took the audience from 1961 up to the present day, showing how the brand has developed significantly since the 1960s.

In his opening speech, Dr Smith quoted Wayne Gretzky, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be” to indicate what GSK is currently doing; predicting the future. It recognises that technology researched now will affect the future. The Meeting called for audience interaction as each delegate was provided with a handset, which they could use as a microphone to text in questions and to participate in poll questions.

50 years of innovation

Stephen Makin, Vice President, Sensodyne R&D Future Team, chaired Session One. With a presentation entitled, A Current and Future Perspective on Innovation, Shafik Saba, ideation and innovation director, Sensodyne Future Team, was welcomed to the stage. Upon joining GSK in 2004, Shafik has been responsible for key products, including Alli and more recently the acquisition and consumer development/positioning of Novamin. He now has the responsibility for the future innovation strategy development of Sensodyne on a global level.

Shafik delivered a thought-provking presentation on some of the greatest innovations over the last 50 years – such as the contraceptive pill, which brought independence and control for females; the microchip – the advent of portable power; stem cell therapy, which enabled scientists to reverse/repair nature; and the Internet, enabling instant connection.

Like these innovations, Shafik explained that Sensodyne is also meeting consumer needs and will continue to do so for the future. However, Shafik wanted to get across that the product is more than just about relieving pain, it also restores teeth. He said, it “put’s back in what life has taken out”.

Periodontal health

Professor Francis Hughes, periodontology, King’s College London Dental Institute, was next to the stage with his Past, Present and Future: Periodontal Health for All talk. Professor Hughes completed his Fellowship in Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons, completed his PhD, and worked as a lecturer in oral medicine and periodontology alongside Dr Smith. After a year as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow, with Professor Tony Melcher in the University of Toronto in 1989, he returned to London and was appointed Chair in Periodontology at Barts & London in 1999. He moved to take up his present appointment at KCL in 2009.

Professor Hughes described the 1960s as the “Golden Age of plaque” and discussed how the amount of plaque correlates with the severity of periodontal disease. He also looked into the prevalence of periodontal disease in ancient British history and presented some interesting findings. Looking at the present, Professor Hughes said that the plaque paradigm is a “one size fits all” approach, but many inconsistencies appear as most people who have plaque do not necessarily have periodontal disease. Revealing the latest epidemiology of periodontitis (3.5 million sufferers are smokers, 0.5 million are diabetics and 2 million come under the umbrella ‘other’), Professor Hughes asked is periodontitis a consumer healthcare company’s nightmare? For the future, he would like to see different treatment for different patients as plaque control seems difficult for some. But then asked, how do we choose the “right” patients for risk factor management, this is where we may need genetic profiling. With lots of treatments for rheumatic arthritis, Professor Hughes hopes treatment for periodontal disease will follow suit. 

Interestingly, Professor Hughes highlighted that the understanding of periodontitis has come a long way in the past 50 years, and although good oral health for all does still remain a challenge, product promotion has done a great deal for oral health awareness.

Caries prevention

Professor J.M (Bob) ten Cate, head of Preventative Dentistry at the Academic Center for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), was next up with Past, Present and Future: Toothpastes in Caries Prevention. He is Chair in Preventative Dentistry at the ACTA  and a former Dean of the Center. He is also director of the Netherlands Institute for Dental Sciences. In 2007, he was awarded an Academy Professorship with the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). Professor ten Cate’s multidisciplinary international research group focuses on caries prevention and oral infectious diseases, with special emphasis on modes of action of fluorides and antimicrobials.

As the title of his presentation indicates, Professor ten Cate discussed the role toothpastes play in caries prevention, with a special emphasis on fluoride toothpastes. Before leaving the stage, Prof ten Cate left the audience with food for thought as he asked, are toothpastes effective for grazers? Would the answer here be to increase the fluoride content in toothpastes? 

Tooth erosion

Session Two, chaired by Dr Stephen Mason, medical affairs director, Sensodyne R&D Futures Team, was kicked off by Professor David Barlett, head of prosthodontics, King’s College London Dental Institute, discussing Past, Present Future: Erosive Tooth Wear. Professor Bartlett has published multiple research publications, written three books, numerous chapters and over 20 Master student theses. He is treasurer for the British Division of IADR and Chair of the Association of Consultants in Restorative Dentistry and sits on a variety of committees, including the ethics committee of Guy’s Hospital.

Professor Bartlett spoke about erosion, abrasion and attrition – the three attributes of tooth wear. He discussed the foods and drinks that cause tooth erosion, such as fruits and fruit juices, and said that there is a confliction between dental advice and medical advice. The medical profession says that fruit juices are good for our health, whereas the dental profession notes that it contributes to tooth erosion, which leads to tooth sensitivity. However, Professor Bartlett pointed out that it is how you eat/drink the fruit that can depend if it will cause tooth erosion. According to Professor Bartlett, sodium fluoride reduces enamel loss from citric acid.

Looking to the future, Professor Barlett said that implants have revolutionised dentistry for the few (not the mass due to the costs) and thinks this is set to continue. He also sees a rise in lab-grown teeth, but thinks there will be a reduction in government funding, resulting in an increase in industry and university collaborations.

Dr Jonathan Earl, principal scientist, New Product Research, Sensodyne R&D Future Team, was next to speak about STEM, ESEM, SEM, FIB SEM x-section techniques and virtual SEM for the future, in his presentation Advances in Microscopy Instrumentation and Imaging Techniques.

Dentine hypersensitivity

Measurement of Dentine Hypersensitivity, Clinical Innovation, was presented by Dr Ashley Barlow, principal clinical scientist, Sensodyne R&D Future Team. Dr Barlow is responsible for the design and implementation of clinical programmes. His specialist research focus is the development of new clinical methods and measurement techniques for assessing dentine hypersensitivity and tooth erosion. 

Dr Barlow said that we need a better understanding of sensitivity and pain, and how to measure it, but how can we quantify pain as it’s a subjective feeling? He discussed his studies, which used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to discover which area of the brain plays a role for the stimulant response when eating/drinking something cold. Another aim of this interesting research was to assess the viability of fMRI as a tool for measuring pain associated with tooth sensitivity.

Following the lunch break, Session Three was chaired by Dr Andrew Middleton, director, New Product Research, Sensodyne R&D Future Team. Beginning the final session, Professor Martin Addy, Division of Restorative Dentistry (periodontology), University of Bristol, spoke about Past, Present and Future, Dentine Hypersensitivity.

Looking at the epidemiology of dentine hypersensitivity over the past 50 years, he presented that between 1960-2005, one in seven people suffer from dentine hypersensitivity, with females more likely to be sufferers. He also highlighted that there are two types of recession (healthy via toothbrushing – enamel abrasion – and via periodontal disease).

Regarding acid erosion (intrinsic and extrinsic acid), Professor Addy presented evidence that it causes irreversible loss and softening as deep as 5 microns. Erosion on dentine can be easily removed, but is more susceptible than enamel and softening can be 1-2 microns. To correctly manage dentine hypersensitivity, Professor Addy said that professionals need to firstly correctly diagnose then identify and address aetiological factors before treatment. 

Vicky Murzynowski, consumer and market insight director, Sensodyne Future Team, in Understanding People and their Tooth Sensitivity, spoke about how Sensodyne is providing oral care products to meet consumer needs as a result of consumer marketing, including testing, trials and questionnaires to find out what customers really want. Vicky also said that the company is aware of what consumers will be looking for in the company’s products in the future.

Sensodyne timeline

Finally, Dr Teresa Layer, Vice President, Oral Healthcare R&D Future Teams, discussed Sensodyne: History and Science behind the brand. After achieving her PhD in Organic Chemistry from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Dr Layer worked at Proctor & Gamble for three years before joining GSK Consumer healthcare in 1997.

In this presentation, Dr Layer took us through the past 50 years, reminding the audience of memorable events that have taken place and what was happening at the same time with the fastest growing toothpaste in the world, Sensodyne.

Sensodyne was launched by Block Drug in 1961 to a US market and founded by Alexander Block. In 1963, two years after its launch, it achieved number one dental recommendation. Following consumer feedback about its taste, the new mint Sensodyne was launched in 1976, and with an aim to also target a younger audience, 1984 saw sensodyne change its advertising. In 1987 the toothpaste added fluoride and in 1993 the range expanded. In 2001, GSK acquired Sensodyne for £1.24b and it became a ‘total care product’. As you may remember, dentist testimonials were used in its TV commercials in 2004. In 2006, Sensodyne Pronamel launched, which was the first toothpaste to enter the acid erosion category, before launching Rapid Relief in 2010. The future welcomes its Repair & Protect toothpaste, which features Novamin technology – an externally-sourced, patented innovation with remineralisation chemistry, efficacy data and has a potential for broader application. It was said to be originally used for the regeneration of bone materials.

To end, Dr Layer believes the next 50 years will be just as exciting, and Sensodyne, described as consumer preferred and expert recommended, hopes to stay the number one toothpaste brand.

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