BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Philips Discontinue Certain Claims for Sonicare Flexcare Products; Finds Company Can Support Certain Claims

New York, New York – May 4, 2011– The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Philips Oral Healthcare, Inc., discontinue certain advertising claims for the Sonicare FlexCare and FlexCare+ toothbrushes. NAD determined, however, that the company could support certain claims, including the claim that “Sonicare FlexCare+ Is The #1 Recommended Brand By Dental Professionals.”

The claims at issue were challenged by Procter & Gamble, Inc., the manufacturer of Oral-B products, including the Oral-B Triumph 9000.

NAD noted that this case presented similar products with distinctly different mechanisms of action. The advertiser’s Sonicare Flexcare and FlexCare+ power toothbrushes use a sweeping motion and a high bristle speed motion in the sonic frequency range to remove plaque, while the advertiser’s Oral-B Triumph utilizes a rotating-oscillating design.

NAD noted in its decision that claims of superior efficacy, such as the claim “Sonicare FlexCare is demonstrated in vitro to remove three times more plaque biofilm than Oral-B Triumph,” must be supported by competent and reliable test methodology.

Both the advertiser and the challenger provided NAD with the results of testing done on their own products and on competing products. NAD found that while the advertiser had tested the products head-to-head, it had not used the challenger’s products according to manufacturer’s instructions or in the way that consumers would use them.

(Full text of decision available to media upon request.) 

NAD recommended the advertiser discontinue superior performance claims, including 

  • Sonicare FlexCare is demonstrated in vitro to remove three times more plaque biofilm than Oral B-Triumph.”
  • Sonicare FlexCare+ is clinically proven to remove more plaque than . . . Oral-B        Triumph.” 
  • Sonicare toothbrushes are clinically proven to reduce … gum recession ”
  • “Patients brushed significantly longer using Sonicare FlexCare+ in the gum mode than with the Oral-B Triumph with Smart Guide
  • Sonicare FlexCare+ … cause[s] 50% less dentin wear …” and is “two times gentler on dentin than Oral-B Triumph

NAD determined that the advertiser had provided a reasonable basis for the following claims:

  • “Demonstrated in vitro to clean beyond the reach of the bristles.”
  • “The patented sonic technology of FlexCare creates a sweeping motion of the bristles that no other power toothbrush can match for unparalleled cleaning of the teeth and gums.”
  • “[G]entle brushing action helps prevent gum recession.”
  • Sonicare FlexCare+ combines patented technology and “the most advanced”” design available in toothbrushing.
  • Sonicare FlexCare+ Is The #1 Recommended Brand By Dental Professionals”

Philips, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “respects the self-regulatory process and will take appropriate steps to address NAD’s concerns in preparing future advertising.”