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Procter & Gamble Co.'s Crest Gum Care may start a revolution in the $1.5 billion oral care market by claiming it prevents the gum disease gingivitis.

According to executives close to the company, P&G is now doing final analysis of data before deciding whether to make the claim, which would be the most compelling assertion since toothpaste marketers first began boasting about cavity prevention.

Overnight, it would create a powerful new segment in the $1.5 billion dentifrice category, already highly segmented by toothpastes that claim to address everything from stains to sensitivity.

At the very least, according to retail executives, P&G will claim Crest Gum Care is the only dentifrice "clinically proven to help get gums healthier."

National TV launch advertising is set to break in July.

Crest Gum Care, handled by D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, has been in test since last summer in Charleston, N.C. (AA, June 20, 1994). It contains a patented stabilized stannous fluoride that enables P&G to make cavity and gingivitis effectiveness claims that are detailed in studies published in The Journal of Clinical Dentistry and approved by the Food & Drug Administration.

The $40 million introduction will include heavy couponing in July through Publisher's Clearing House, dentists, other Crest products and free standing inserts. There will also be in-carton letters from P&G addressing consumers on product benefits and usage with a toll free number for comments and questions.

By making a claim of gingivitis prevention, Crest Gum Care would get a jump on triclosan-based toothpastes already marketed abroad but still awaiting FDA approval, expected in '96.

P&G markets Ultra Protection Crest in Canada and elsewhere while Colgate-Palmolive Co. sells Colgate Total with a special triclosan gantrez co-polymer everywhere but the U.S.

Colgate's entry is positioned as an all-in-one toothpaste that fights cavities, plaque, tartar and gum disease.

In August, Warner-Lambert Co. is introducing Listerine toothpaste with $27 million in support via S.U.N. Health-Core, New York (AA, April 17). But the Listerine entry only compares itself to Chesebrough-Pond's Mentadent, a baking soda and peroxide entry.

Early test market packages did compare Listerine to triclosan products like Total but industry executives believe these were pulled due to potential legal problems.

Both Crest and Colgate saw their respective shares decline to 30.5% and 18.2% for the 52 weeks ended Feb. 26, according to Information Resources Inc., while Mentadent gained 5.7 share points for a 10.2 share.

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