A couple of years ago I had a sensitive tooth, and my dental hygienist recommended that I try Sensodyne or one of the other sensitivity-reducing toothpastes. I bought the generic CVS brand, and it worked.
These toothpastes work because they contain potassium nitrate, which blocks pores in the teeth that allow hot or cold foods to get close to the nerve. This article notes that you might be able to stop using the toothpaste after a while to see if the sensitivity has disappeared. (I should do that as I’ve never stopped using the stuff.)
At any rate, I ran out to the CVS yesterday for a new tube. It turns out that the larger tube of Colgate “Sensitive” toothpaste was a better value per ounce than the house brand, so I bought that. But, like all “sensitive” toothpastes, it carries a big premium in price. The tube below cost, including tax, $7.39. SEVEN DOLLARS AND THIRTY NINE CENTS for six ounces of toothpaste, and that was relatively cheaper than the other “sensitive” brands.
Do you know what that toothpaste works out per pound? $19.70: more than twice as much as I pay for T-bone steak! And if you look at the ingredients (picture below), what you’re paying extra for is one ingredient: 5% potassium nitrate (all toothpastes now have fluoride). Working out the cost of that ingredient, 5% of 6 ounces yields 0.3 oz of the potassium nitrate in the tube. Now being a lab biologist, I’ve ordered
sodium potassium nitrate, and believe me, it’s not expensive: you can buy a pound of the stuff for about ten bucks, and you’d better believe that Colgate gets it for far less than that.
Comparing the price to that of regular toothpaste sans potassium nitrate, I calculate that I’m paying about $2 extra for 0.3 oz (8.5 grams) of potassium nitrate, which works out to about $107 per pound of the stuff!
Can someone explain this to me? Are they ripping off the consumers who need the stuff because they have sensitive teeth? Is this another case of Big Pharma taking advantage of people’s needs?
Sensitive toothpaste (and, to be sure, all toothpaste) is one of those items that’s now way overpriced, like sliced white bread at the grocery store, coffee from a barista, and, of course, the ever shrinking large tubs of ice cream. I won’t get into the “shrinking size” scam, but recently I bought cans of black beans at the store, and noticed that what once was a 16 ounce can of black beans had shrunk to 15.5 ounces at one store and 15 ounces at another. (One of those store was “honest” Trader Joe’s.) This sneaky downsizing of products, bit by tiny bit, is just another way of ripping us off, for who is going to notice the loss of half an ounce of beans?
Consumers arise and revolt!
Yes, I know that “supply chain” problems have made food—and nearly everything else—more expensive. But go ahead and kvetch, especially about things that you find grossly overpriced for what you get.