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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 13  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 197

The anti-signal, Signal toothpaste: A true episode

Hon. Member, IAPHD, Rockville, MD 20853, USA

Date of Web Publication18-Jun-2015

Correspondence Address:
Mohandas Bhat
Hon. Member, IAPHD, Rockville, MD 20853
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2319-5932.159070

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How to cite this article:
Bhat M. The anti-signal, Signal toothpaste: A true episode. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2015;13:197

How to cite this URL:
Bhat M. The anti-signal, Signal toothpaste: A true episode. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 Jan 25];13:197. Available from: https://www.jiaphd.org/text.asp?2015/13/2/197/159070

In 1972, I was the only Professor and Head of a Department of Preventive and Social Dentistry, In India. This Department was started by me at Government Dental College (GDC, now GDCRI) in Bangalore (now Bengaluru). Hindustan Lever Ltd., (HLL, now renamed Hindustan Unilever Ltd.,) launched a brand new toothpaste "Signal" in India. For some reason, they chose Bangalore as the city to do this. They must of have known about me as they invited me for the grand gala launching ceremony at a five-star hotel in Bangalore. Most of their distributors and salesmen had been invited for this event.

Next day, to my great surprise, a local Newspaper, Deccan Herald, mentioned my name as a collaborator in developing the Signal toothpaste! Of course, it was a fake story, perhaps, planted by HLL! Anyway, I explained to my boss, the Principal of the Dental College, Dr. S. Ramachandra, that I had nothing to do with it, and he was satisfied.

Hindustan Lever Ltd., sent to my Home, a sample of the Signal toothpaste along with a small gift basket of other HLL Home Care products. I tried the toothpaste. The new toothpaste was white and when the tube was squeezed a red stripe appeared, along with the white paste, which is obviously why HLL labeled it "Signal." When you brushed with it and spit it out, it appeared pink in color! This red strike causing a pink spit bothered me, and apparently worked on my mind quite a bit, as you shall see.

Later, HLL invited me to Bombay (now Mumbai) to show me around their toothpaste factory in a suburb of Bombay. They took me around their factory, my first such visit to a toothpaste manufacturing facility. After this, they took me to their headquarters in Bombay to meet their CEO, who happened to be a British gentleman, whose name I do not recall. He casually asked me what I thought of the Signal toothpaste. Without thinking that I may be offending my host, I blurted out "you should have really called it "Anti-Signal." He was taken aback and asked me "What do you mean?" I explained to him that gum disease is very common in India and that the first sign of inflammation of the gums or gingivitis is swelling of the gums and bleeding on brushing. Any white toothpaste would turn pink when you brush with it and spit it out, thus signaling to the user that he/she has a problem with their gums. The signal toothpaste produces a pink spit, which is the early sign of gingivitis. Thus, the Signal toothpaste masks the symptoms of gingivitis and hence it is really is anti-signal! He was probably dumbstruck but was quite polite and thanked me and bid me good bye. I left India for higher studies, sometime after this episode.

I came to know later that HLL did change its name and Signal toothpaste is now sold in India as "Pepsodent" (Wikipedia). It would be interesting to know when and why the "Signal" label was discontinued in India, and if my remarks to the then CEO of HLL had any influence on this decision. Apparently Signal toothpaste is still available in the U.K. and other countries! They even have "Signal White Now" toothpaste that brightens teeth, sold in the U.K.


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