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September 6, 2004

1 800 BEST DDS



That's the best short description of this company's founder, Dr. Baldev Sandhu.

He's a former Park Avenue plastic surgeon who took control of the company called 1800 BEST DDS in July 2003.

He'd been an early investor when it opened in late 2002, and when he took over, there were hardly any callers to the toll-free number, which refers people to cosmetic dentists.

That was because the company had no money for advertising.

Without the means to match 1-800-DENTIST's barrage of TV ads, Dr. Sandhu needed a low-cost Plan B.

He came up with the idea of stocking dental offices with free samples of whitening toothpaste displaying his company's name.

Then he decided to sell the toothpaste to stores, and succeeded in getting it into Duane Reade drugstores last November.

The chain now sells 1,000 tubes a month.

Dr. Sandhu says his toothpaste is making money, and he's expanding into other chains soon.

He's also planning a 1 800 BEST DDS mouthwash and other dental-related products.

Each box of toothpaste contains a coupon good for $50 off a first appointment at a participating cosmetic dentist.

So now he's advertising, and the customer's paying for the ads.

I call this ingenious synergy of phone number and product simply... brilliant.

Here's Brendan I. Koerner's story, from yesterday's New York Times Business section.

A Message in Every Squeeze

Aside from his guest appearance in the 1977 Woody Allen film "Annie Hall," Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian cultural critic, is most famous for coining the phrase, "The medium is the message."

Mr. McLuhan, of course, was referring the corrosive effects of mass entertainment and information.

But the expression could also apply to a whitening toothpaste called 1 800 BEST DDS, a product that blurs - if not outright erases - the line between merchandise and marketing tool.

The name of the product is also the number of a referral service for dentists who specialize in cosmetic procedures, like fixing crooked smiles and bleaching yellowed canines.

Its better-known competitor, 1-800-DENTIST, is a general referral service - without the toothpaste.

Dr. Baldev Sandhu, the chief executive of 1 800 BEST DDS, based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., is a plastic surgeon who previously made his living doing tummy tucks for a Park Avenue clientele.

An early investor in the company when it opened for business nearly two years ago, he assumed day-to-day control in July 2003.

At that time, the company had hardly any callers, largely because of an advertising budget that ranged from minuscule to nonexistent.

"We did some print ads in Us Weekly and the women's magazines," Dr. Sandhu said. "But to be perfectly honest, it was never terribly successful."

Without the means to match 1-800-DENTIST's barrage of TV ads, Dr. Sandhu needed a low-cost Plan B.

Aware that dentists often hand out toothpaste samples to patients, he came up with the idea of stocking dental offices with tubes displaying his company's name - and thus its phone number.

He commissioned Sheffield Laboratories of New London, Conn., to make a peroxide-rich toothpaste that gives users a hint of the sparkling smile they can attain, if they're willing to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to a dentist.

With whitening toothpastes of all stripes taking off, Dr. Sandhu said he decided to sell the product to stores.

According to the American Dental Association, 29.3 percent of Americans used a tooth-whitening product at home in 2003, up from 10.4 percent in 2001.

Otherwise, the toothpaste industry has been in a funk, with overall sales declining by 3.6 percent, to $1.5 billion, from 2002 to 2003.

Figures from ACNielsen, the research firm, show that consumers have cooled to old-fashioned tooth powders and breath-freshening gels.

AT $6.99 a tube, Dr. Sandhu's toothpaste made its retail debut last November, at Duane Reade drugstores; the chain now sells a thousand tubes a month.

That's small potatoes next to the nation's best-selling toothpaste, Crest from Procter & Gamble, which sold more than 15.5 million tubes in drugstores alone last year.

But Dr. Sandhu says his toothpaste turns a profit, and he is discussing expansion to other chains by year-end.

He said he was preparing to introduce a 1 800 BEST DDS mouthwash and was looking into extending the brand to dental adhesives or pain-relieving toothpastes.

The company is not in the manufacturing business, Dr. Sandhu emphasized.

The real beauty of 1 800 BEST DDS toothpaste, he said, is the packaging, emblazoned with the toll-free number.

If you are brushing with a mainstream brand and call the number on its box, you may be "sent to a call center in India," he said.

"In our system," he added, "you call the number on the box, and you get sent to a real dentist, a dentist who knows about the product and can address your concerns."

Or, presumably, schedule a teeth-whitening session, an arrangement made more likely because each toothpaste box has a coupon good for $50 off a first appointment.

Someone from the dot-com era might call the marriage of a money-making product and free advertising a good example of synergy.

How long before Procter & Gamble flips Dr. Sandhu's script and turns a toll-free customer service line into a referral service?

If it does so, maybe it should send a royalty check to Mr. McLuhan's estate.

September 6, 2004 at 03:01 AM | Permalink


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their marketing service is a complete scam, stay away.

Posted by: Dr Teeth | Sep 20, 2007 1:25:45 PM

I have tried this toothpaste and I can tell you it has not been well tested.

It has no flavor, does not whiten teeth, and retains its shape when on the brush, unlike 99.9% of all other brands that start to ooze off... the consistency is horrible and there seems to have been no focus group testing with this product.

1 800 Best DDS only has about 65 dentists in the program, so the odds of getting a real dentist are very slim.

Stick to the known brands and pass on this fly-by-night product.

Posted by: Michele | Sep 8, 2004 12:04:00 PM

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