ASA clamps down on Oral-B medicinal claims following dental nurse ad complaints

An ad for Oral-B Gum and Enamel Repair toothpaste has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for implying that the product could be used for medicinal purposes.

The ASA investigated the ad following a complaint from a qualified dental nurse.

The watchdog said that the TV spot, broadcast in August and September 2017, could not be shown again and told brand owner Procter & Gamble (P&G) to ensure that future ads didn't make unsubstantiated medicinal claims about its products.

The ad featured two women complaining about sensitive gums and teeth. One of them remarked: ‘Ah, my gums feel really sore. No big deal right?’ before a dental professional said: ‘Wrong. Actually most problems start with your gums and enamel’.

The character then introduced the product, stating that ‘Its active repair technology helps rejuvenate gums and repair enamel in just two weeks.’

Meanwhile, on-screen small print stated: ‘Dramatisation gum rejuvenation. Rejuvenates helps to restore gum condition’ and ‘Repair in laboratory study on weakened enamel. Remineralisation.’

The watchdog focused on the ad’s claims that the toothpaste could help ‘repair enamel in two weeks’ and ‘rejuvinate gums’. It ruled that, since the toothpaste was not licensed as a medicine by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) or the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Oral-B’s ads were not permitted to make medicinal claims.

The ASA defined a medicinal claim as: “a claim that a product or its constituents could be used with a view to making a medical diagnosis or could treat or prevent disease, including an injury, ailment or adverse condition.”

P&G argued that since weakened enamel was not considered a disease by medical professionals, ads that said that its products could treat the condition did not constitute medicinal claims.

However, the ASA said viewers would understand the ad’s claims and on-screen text as medicinal, and that weakened enamel could be seen as an ‘adverse condition’ in line with its definition of medicinal claims.

The ad must not appear again in its current form.

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