Dentists paid to endorse toothpaste

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DENTISTS' professional associations are making hundreds of thousands of pounds a year by "selling" their names for use on toothpaste tubes. They charge manufacturers up to pounds 22,000 for a logo which shows that the toothpaste has been scientifically approved.

Dozens of products, including Aquafresh, Macleans Tooth Patrol Gel, and Colgate Triple Cool Stripe, carry logos that reassure the consumer about the products' credentials.

MPs and consumer groups believe that shoppers should be told that organisations such as the British Dental Association and British Dental Health Foundation are making money from the use of their names, rather than offering them free as a public service.

Last year the BDA, which uses top dentists to assess manufacturers' claims, made pounds 137,000 from its endorsement scheme, of which pounds 50,000 covered its costs. The BDA pays expert dentists pounds 600 a day for their opinions. The BDHF has approved more than 280 products since 1991. In 1998 it made pounds 250,743 from its accreditation scheme.

A spokesman for the BDHF said it ploughed excess money back into health education. But one of its publications says that the accreditation system was a great success "both for the financial security it has afforded ... and the service it provides for the public."

"If you were a major brand it would cost you around pounds 10,000 for accreditation for the first year and pounds 10,000 for the second," said a BDHF spokesman.

Manufacturers say that the logos are hard to obtain and that dentists' panels frequently refuse to back up the manufacturer's claims. "The accreditation scheme shows that the claims have been independently substantiated for safety, efficiency and quality," said a spokeswoman for SmithKline Beecham, which makes Macleans.

The BDA, which represents dentists in the UK, says it is not "selling its name". "Our aim is to cover our costs and the other surplus is for education and scientific work," said a spokesman.