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Act Mouthwash: Now With Less Fluoride?

A sharp reader found what he thought was a new example of skimpflation — when a product is reformulated with cheaper ingredients, or perhaps simply watered down.

He wrote about Act Total Care mouthwash which is an anticavity product with fluoride that you swish around in your mouth once a day to provide added protection for your teeth.

A closer look at the front label reveals an inconspicuous difference between the smaller bottle he had at home and the larger one he had just bought.


Act small and big

Could the print be any smaller? The strength of the fluoride is less than half in the large bottle going from 0.05% to just 0.02%! So users have to wonder whether it is going to be less effective since in essence they are giving you diluted fluoride.

But there was a second difference on the back label. Instead of gargling once a day, you have to use the product on the right, the larger bottle, twice a day.


Act smallAct large

The effect of both these differences seems like a double-whammy for users. You’re getting half the strength so you have to use twice as much a day, and the larger bottle costs more.

We asked Sanofi, the maker of Act, to explain these changes, as well as calling their consumer line. We were provided with a most unexpected answer. Although the products look the same but for the size of the bottle, and have the same name, they are actually two separate products. The smaller bottle is meant to be a once-a-day product and the larger one is meant to be a twice-a-day product, and this is nothing new. The customer service rep said the larger bottle has to have a less concentrated amount of fluoride since you are taking twice as much of it.

There is no indication on the front label that you need two doses a day from the larger bottle of Act Total Care unlike some other of their mouthwashes that at least have a tiny designation on the front.


Act 1x Act 2x

We can only wonder how many people are taking the wrong dose of Act Total Care if they change bottle sizes? Some may wind up taking double the dose, while others could wind up with only getting half the protection they expect. When we asked Sanofi why they don’t try to prevent misdosing by clearly labeling the products “1x Daily” or “2x Daily,” their spokesperson (non)responded:

“All of our products are labeled in accordance with FDA regulation.”

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11 thoughts on “Act Mouthwash: Now With Less Fluoride?”

  1. They should put on the front of the bottle 2x for the larger bottle even if under proper use the larger bottle gives you less ounces in the end.

  2. With the two-times-a-day dosage, each dose is subtherapeutic.

    In other words, two doses of the weaker Act does not equal one dose of the stronger Act. in other words, concentration matters.

  3. While there is some pretty obvious deception going on here, we would be better off finding a mouthwash without *any* fluoride in it.

  4. It might have been already widely spread practice. I always buy generic brand, like CareOne Alcohol Free Fluoride Mouth wash that is saying “Compare to Active Ingredient in Crest Pro Health Advanced Anticavity Fluoride Mouthwash”.

    I have a big bottle and the back label states active ingredient Sodium fluoride 0.02%, and “use twice daily after brushing your teeth with a toothpaste”

    So, it’s not just ACT but probably all the major/generic brand mouthwash has been already like this.

  5. I wonder if the rep that stated they were two different products was expressing a personal opinion or guess. It’s not unheard of for a customer service rep to state something contrary to the company explanation, especially when the circumstances are like this.

  6. The companies that are exhibiting these practices don’t like your comments posted on their social media sites.

  7. Their mouthwash has always been known as a “once a day” thing in oral healthcare. Why change it now, I wonder?

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