Dr. Benoit Soucy is a dentist, former professor of dentistry at Laval University and currently holds the position of Chief Knowledge Officer at the Canadian Dental Association.
By Dr Benoit Soucy
You’re in the aisle of a pharmacy trying to decide which mouthwash to buy. Or you’re at your local grocery store picking out toothpaste. Some products claim to prevent cavities. Others say they promote healthy gums. How to choose wisely?
If an oral health product bears the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) seal on its packaging, a committee of CDA dentists has verified that the claims listed in the seal statement are scientifically substantiated.
In 2022, the CDA label celebrates its 50th anniversary. For half a century, the logo with its signature maple leaf has reassured the public that the products will improve their oral health and meet the rigorous standards of the CDA.
As a dentist who has worked on the CDA Seal program for over two decades, I have seen the positive impact the CDA Seal has on the oral health of Canadians and how manufacturers serve the consumers who buy their products.
When the CDA seal was first introduced in 1972, it was part of a public education program to help people make informed choices when fluoridated toothpastes were new to the market. Fluoride-free toothpaste had no therapeutic benefit for oral health. However, fluoridated toothpaste has been studied extensively and data has shown that it helps prevent cavities.
Today, the CDA seal can be found on a range of oral health products, including manual and electric toothbrushes, dental floss, mouthwashes and rinses, water flossers and, of course, toothpaste. The team of experts who validate claims review and consider the scientific evidence for any oral health benefit claim that a manufacturer submits to CDA’s Seal Program. If a manufacturer claims that a water flosser removes 97% of plaque and improves gum health, these experts will review the evidence and only award a CDA seal if the claims are valid.
Work with manufacturers
Twenty years ago, a manufacturer applied for the CDA label for a fluoridated toothpaste. Our dentists found the evidence for cavity prevention to be good, but had concerns about the images on the packaging. It showed a toothbrush with too much toothpaste on the bristles. The CDA recommends children over the age of three use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Our committee of dentists contacted the manufacturer and asked them to modify the image so that consumers see an appropriate amount of toothpaste. The manufacturer made the change and the toothpaste received the CDA seal.
Today, the CDA seal can be found on a range of oral health products, including manual and electric toothbrushes, dental floss, mouthwashes and rinses, water flossers and, of course, toothpaste.
One of the most unique products to earn the CDA seal was a household water filter that did not remove fluoride from water.
Health Canada reviews claims related to a product’s therapeutic benefits, but some oral health products make claims that Health Canada considers cosmetic and therefore will not review them. In these cases, the CDA seal is particularly useful for consumers who want to be reassured that the product will deliver the promised benefits.
Manufacturers of oral health products make significant contributions to oral health research. There hasn’t been a lot of independently funded research on the benefits of flossing because health research funding tends to go to more deadly diseases. But manufacturers have done studies on dental floss because they want to make more effective or easier to use products and bring them to market. Leading manufacturers of oral health products have conducted important and valuable studies related to the evolution of bacterial plaque in the mouth that are shaping new approaches to preventing oral disease.
A trusted source
The CDA seal has been providing good information to the public to help people make informed choices for generations. At the same time, we worked with manufacturers as their products evolved to better care for the teeth and mouths of Canadians.
In one case, the CDA seal program also helped protect the environment. A few years ago, some manufacturers used polyethylene microbeads in their toothpaste formulations. These microbeads do not biodegrade and contribute to plastic pollution in the oceans. Moreover, they had no therapeutic value in toothpaste. Thanks to the relationships CDA has established through the program, when we reached out to the manufacturers of these products to resolve the issue, we were quickly reassured that they would stop using the polyethylene microbeads.
Over the past 50 years, the oral health of Canadians has improved in every way. I am pleased that the CDA Seal Program was able to contribute to this positive change in a small but significant way.