Chocolate Bliss? Tooth shining flavors ‘cooked up’ in York
Flavored tooth cleaning pastes put forth for varied palates by York-based Dentsply. Do you prefer raspberry or traditional mint? Background post: Dentsply’s original York factories stand near another orginal: the Cookes House.
The company has fended off decay.
Other old-time York companies have come and gone, but Dentsply remains a stalwart part of the city.
The company makes dental products – false teeth and cleaning materials, to name a few… .
It occupies several longtime buildings in an old neighbhorhood along the Codorus. It has a large presence in the city’s developing industrial park in the north side.
And its headquarters are situated right in the middle of those two sites – at the glittering Susquehanna Commerce Center in York’s downtown.
Dentsply is a quiet member of the York community, although a household word among dentists.
The following York Daily Record story shows how innovation in just one niche area – flavored pastes dentists use to clean teeth – has turned into a multi-million dollar business….
Chocolattè isn’t working, despite the adult fixation on coffee.
That includes the early-morning-mug-and-foam-cup-clenching staff of Dentsply International in York.
Turns out that adults possibly don’t drink coffee-based drinks because they like the flavor. They drink them because it’s a necessary dose of caffeine to get the morning going, with the added bonus of chocolate.
So one of the newer flavors by Dentsply International’s Professional Division, possibly coming to a dentist near you, is keeping it simple.
It’s called Chocolate Bliss. No latte.
Dentsply has about a dozen flavors for the paste dentists use to clean and polishing teeth, using the thing that sounds like a drill, has a little plastic brush and smears a paste on your teeth near the end of your visit.
The ideas for new flavors are entirely cooked up here in York.
The niche generates about $35 million to $36 million for the world’s leading dental supplier, said Kerri Sebring, spokeswoman for the company, at a roundtable earlier this month of the people responsible for such flavors as the ever-present mint and bubblegum to the new strawberry vanilla swirl.
The latter flavor does well with both kids and adults, said Leonard J. Litkowski, director of clinical research for Dentsply.
His role in the process: “product acceptance.”
In other words, he helps make products that won’t make people wince when a dental hygienist puts it in their mouths, therefore making them more likely to go to the dentist. Mostly, he said, the flavors are for the kids.
“You can do a lot of things to adults, and they don’t really care,” Litkowski said.
That, however, might change as a generation of kids grows into adulthood and comes to expect their “prophy paste” – industry jargon for the teeth-cleaning substance – not to taste bad.
“Maybe we’ll have 60 flavors one day,” Litkowski joked, causing a collective wince to ripple through the people in Dentsply’s laboratory, which is reminiscent of a high school chemistry lab.
Not as easy as it looks
The lab’s simple look is deceiving.
Making prophy paste taste like raspberry, for example, is a lot more complicated than just mixing in raspberry flavoring in with plain paste.
First, it needs to not change the function of the paste – which needs to clean teeth, and not leave a sugary film.
Second, it needs to last.
A container of paste could sit on a dentist’s shelf for months, maybe years. Whatever Dentsply uses to flavor its pastes needs to last at least 15 to 18 months without losing its flavor or ability to clean properly.
To make sure a product lasts, the flavor component is the only one researchers can change. The formula of the paste, doing the cleaning work, must stay intact.
“We don’t want to mess with that,” said Niall Sweeney, director of research and development.
It takes at least a year to take an idea to market, Litkowski said.
Deepankar Pant, senior product manager in charge of after-production marketing of the pastes, said Dentsply’s prophy pastes are just one of many teeth-related products being sold to flavor-conscious consumers.
He said anyone walking down a toothpaste aisle can see that. But what Dentsply has that others don’t is the sheer bite of the market.
Out of the entire dentistry industry, 96 percent of the market knows about their product. “Even Kleenex doesn’t have that,” Pant said.
All the research and development for Dentsply’s flavored products takes place at its Professional Division, 1301 Smile Way in York, in the city’s northern industrial and commercial center. Production takes place in Delaware.
The research also is directed at other flavored dental products, including the gel-like material dentists and hygienists put in those Styrofoam mouthpieces to soak your teeth.
“I think back then,” referring to about 20 years ago, “there were two flavors – bad and worse,” Litkowski said. Today, there are berry flavors, and even the consistency has changed.
The mouthpiece pastes now looks like a shaving foam. The company is also looking into different flavors for international markets, including a tea flavoring for Japan. As for how many flavor products Dentsply might offer in another 20 years, Litkowski didn’t venture a guess.
“Who knows?” he said.