Money Where Your Mouth Is

This month, Oral-B will release its new $5 manual toothbrush, breaking all previous price barriers by more than $1. Gillette (Oral-B's parent company) contemplated selling the toothbrush for $4, but market research proved that consumers were willing to pay more for "movement inside their mouths similar to the multiple cleaning actions of an automatic car wash."

Yet, according to American Dental Association consumer adviser Dr. Richard Price, all toothbrushes do the same job if used properly. "Bottom line, it's not the brush," says Price. "It's the brusher that makes the difference." Price says consumers have been similarly duped by ineffectual toothpaste "improvements," such as baking soda and hydrogen peroxide (which mostly just foams, says Price).

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Unlike previous generations, baby boomers can expect to keep their teeth for a lifetime. But since the price of the best care maxes out with a 75-cent brush and a $1.50 tube of fluoride toothpaste, Americans are spending millions annually to enhance the appearance of their dental care.

Hence the No-Mess, No-Waste Toothpaste Dispenser. This Italian, solid-brass accessory will squeeze, flatten, and roll your toothpaste tube for you -- all for a mere $75. Despite its claims, the dispenser is both messy and wasteful. Starting a tube requires wasting the first few inches of paste, and the brass needs periodic polishing and buffing. Daniel Lally, PR director for the dispenser's retailer, admits, "It's a luxury, yes, but...[it] reminds you why you work so hard in the first place."