This week at Dental Depot Arizona, we’re taking you on a fascinating journey into the world of halitosis. We’ll explore its intriguing history and understand how a game-changing marketing campaign redefined our relationship with bad breath.
While the dawn of toothpaste ads might make us believe bad breath is a contemporary issue, history tells a different tale. Smithsonian’s treasure trove of articles illustrates the lengths ancient civilizations went to in the quest for fresher breath.
Imagine ancient Egyptians concocting their very own breath mints about 3,000 years ago. Their recipe? A fusion of boiled herbs, spices, and honey that produced delightful sweets with dual benefits—taste and freshness. On the other side of the world, the Chinese, ever the innovators, fashioned the earliest prototype of the toothbrush in the 1400s using boar bristles. Sure, it might seem unconventional to us, but it was leagues ahead of the Babylonians who were, believe it or not, brushing their teeth with simple twigs 5,000 years ago!
The 1860s heralded a new era for medical science. The antiseptic began its rule. Surgeons, like the renowned Dr. Joseph Lister, observed that patient survival rates surged when they incorporated antiseptics.
This groundbreaking discovery didn’t escape the notice of Dr. Joseph Lawrence and the enterprising Robert Wood Johnson, the founder of Johnson & Johnson. They championed antiseptic as the revolutionary shield for patients. Lawrence’s commitment led him to formulate a unique antiseptic in 1879—Listerine, paying homage to Dr. Lister.
Subsequent ownership by The Lambert Pharmaceutical Company paved the way for Listerine to be marketed for an array of ailments. By 1895, with research reinforcing Listerine’s prowess in exterminating mouth germs, it soon became a dental favorite.
A quirky tidbit—Listerine didn’t birth bad breath. They simply realized the potential of marketing it. The 1920s marked a shift in our understanding of bad breath, thanks to Gerald Lambert of Lambert Pharmaceutical Company. His discovery of the term “halitosis” from a dusty old medical journal cast bad breath in a new light. Presenting it as a bona fide medical condition that demanded treatment, and voilà, Listerine was the obvious solution.
The Drama of “Halitosis Hysteria!”
Who could forget Edna? The quintessential damsel with every trait that society admired—save for her unwitting battle with halitosis. Listerine’s gripping ad campaigns chronicled Edna’s heart-wrenching saga, emphasizing the social implications of bad breath. This genius, albeit dramatic, marketing strategy proved gold.
The numbers are staggering. Listerine skyrocketed from modest annual sales of about $100,000 in 1921 to a whopping $4 million by 1927. To provide context, in today’s currency, that’s an astounding rise from $1.3 million to $57.5 million. By the late 1920s, Listerine stood tall as America’s third-highest print advertiser.
Fast forward to today, and Listerine flourishes under the Johnson & Johnson umbrella, contributing to the monumental $6 billion oral hygiene industry. Even though the spotlight on bad breath may have initially been a crafty marketing ploy, it’s undeniable that antiseptic mouthwashes, like Listerine, play a pivotal role in our oral care routine. Just a swift 30-second rinse, twice daily, promises a plethora of benefits, ensuring a pristine oral environment.