Oral Health Care Products You Can Trust: 50 Years of the CDA Seal Guiding Better Consumer Choices

You're in the aisle of a drug store trying to decide what mouthwash to buy. Or you're at your local grocery store picking out toothpaste. Some products claim to prevent cavities. Others say they promote gum health. How do you choose wisely?If an oral health product has the CDA Seal on its packaging, then a committee of dentists at the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) has verified that the claims listed in the Seal Statement are scientifically supported.In 2022, the CDA Seal is celebrating its 50th year. For a half century, the logo with its signature maple leaf has reassured the public that products will improve their oral health and meet the rigorous standards of CDA.As a dentist who has worked on the CDA Seal program for more than two decades, I've seen the positive impact that the CDA Seal has on the oral health of Canadians and how manufacturers serve 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 on the market. Toothpaste without fluoride didn't have any therapeutic oral health benefits. However, fluoridated toothpaste had been studied extensively and data showed that it helped to prevent cavities.Today, the CDA Seal can be found on a range of oral health products including manual and electric toothbrushes, floss, mouthwashes and rinses, water flossers, and, of course, toothpaste. The team of experts who validate claims reviews and considers the scientific evidence for any oral health benefit claim that a manufacturer submits to the CDA Seal program. If a manufacturer claims that a water flosser removes 97% of plaque and improves gum health, these experts will look at the evidence and only award a CDA Seal if the claims are valid.About 20 years ago, a manufacturer applied for the CDA Seal for a fluoridated toothpaste. Our dentists found that the evidence for cavity prevention was good, but they had a concern about the images on the packaging. It showed a toothbrush with too much toothpaste on the bristles. CDA recommend that children over three use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Our committee of dentists reached out to the manufacturer and asked them to change the image so that consumers would be shown an appropriate amount of toothpaste. The manufacturer made the change, and the toothpaste was given the CDA Seal.One of the more unique products that was granted the CDA Seal was a home water filter that didn't remove fluoride from the water.Health Canada reviews claims related to a product's therapeutic benefits, but some oral health products make claims that Health Canada sees as cosmetic and therefore, will not consider those products for review. In these cases, the CDA Seal is especially helpful to consumers who want reassurance that the product will deliver the benefit promised.Manufacturers of oral health products make meaningful contributions to oral health research. There hasn't been a lot of independently funded research into the benefits of floss because health research funding tends to go toward more life-threatening diseases. But manufacturers have done floss studies because they want to make more effective or easier-to-use products and bring them to market. Large manufacturers of oral health products have conducted important and useful studies related to the evolution of bacterial plaque in the mouth that are shaping new approaches to prevent oral disease.The CDA Seal has provided good information to the public to help people make informed choices for several generations. At the same time, we've worked with manufacturers as their products have evolved to better care for Canadians' teeth and mouths.In one case, the CDA Seal program has also helped protect the environment. A few years ago, some manufacturers were using micro-beads made of polyethylene in their toothpaste formulations. These micro-beads don't biodegrade and were contributing to plastic pollution in the oceans. As well, they didn't have any therapeutic value in toothpaste. Thanks to the relationships CDA has established through the program, when we contacted the manufacturers of those products to address the issue, we were quickly reassured that they would discontinue the use of polyethylene micro-beads.Over the last 50 years, the oral health of Canadians has improved by every measure. I'm happy that the CDA Seal program has been able to contribute to that positive change in a small but meaningful way.Dr. Benoit Soucy is a dentist, a former professor of dentistry at Université Laval and currently serves as the chief knowledge officer at the Canadian Dental Association.