We’ve Been Extruded!

Toothpaste. It’s all in the squeeze.

A few years ago, our dentist recommended Prevident, a prescription gel with four times the fluoride in regular toothpastes, so it protects your teeth and any exposed roots.

To spare patients the trouble – who wants to make an extra trip to fill a toothpaste prescription? — the dentist kept some in stock and sold it at his cost — $7, later $9 a tube.

On the tube, it simply said, Prevident. But one day it added a bright red “Colgate” above the Prevident. Then this new, improved name was further festooned to become COLGATE PREVIDENT 5000 PLUS.

We should have known – here comes the squeeze.

First, the dentist was squeezed out of the supply chain. Now we had to get a paper prescription from him and take it to the drugstore.

Cost efficiency, right? Eliminate the middleman and save the patient money?


At the pharmacy, the same tube of Prevident now costs $45. The co-payment alone is more expensive than the whole tube used to be. The insurance company pays the rest, and then your insurance rates go up.

That’s how it works. Before a person can squeeze the tube, the system squeezes the person.

The magic ingredient in Prevident is sodium fluoride, so I Googled the prices charged by sodium fluoride suppliers. They clustered between $700 and $900 a ton, minimum order of 10 tons. That quashed any thoughts I might have had of mixing fluoride with mint jelly and tapioca pudding in the Cuisinart to make artisan toothpaste, which was too bad because Colgate had inadvertently given me the recipe.

Their package specifies 1.8 oz of Prevident gel, containing 1.1% sodium fluoride, which works out to a dose of .02 oz per package; so a ton of sodium fluoride should be enough for 1,600,000 tubes of toothpaste.

At $700 to $900 a ton, each tube of Prevident has about a 20th of a cent’s worth of sodium fluoride – 20 tubes for a penny.

No doubt Colgate Palmolive’s marketers have their reasons why that 20th of a cent’s worth of chemicals costs $45 by the time it gets to you – I mean, they do have to build a 10-ton bin for the fluoride, and they have to mix it with other stuff and color it green and somehow get it into a tube. That can’t be easy. On the other hand, it can’t be any harder than it was when the tube cost you $7 instead of $45.

Never mind — this is the unfettered free-market capitalism that makes our country great and gives you, the consumer, the power to make the ultimate choice:

Either you lose your money, or you lose your teeth.

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About Al

Editors of The Horse You Rode In On (listed below) hail from Boston, Pittsburgh, and San Francisco. All contributions are signed. When guest contributors are included, their comments will be signed in a manner consistent with their needs for discretion, witness protection, or yearning for personal adulation.