A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

4 out of 5 dentists recommend sugarless gum. What does the 5th recommend?

November 21, 1980

Dear Cecil:

For years those sugarless gum commercials have said, "Sugarless gum is recommended by four out of five dentists for their patients who chew gum." What does the fifth dentist recommend? Gum with sugar?

Cecil replies:

Oh, sure, Elizabeth, why not? It's like tire dealers scattering tacks on the road.

Fact is, the fifth dentist usually recommended no gum at all. Not the kind of advice a chewing-gum company wants to play up real big.

The Warner-Lambert Company, makers of Trident sugarless gum, commissioned a market research firm to survey dentists in July 1976.

The research people came up with a list of 1,200 dentists who were supposed to represent a cross-section of their profession. The dentists were asked what they recommended to their gum-chewing patients--sugared gum, sugarless gum, or no gum at all.

Sugarless gum won with 85 percent. Nobody seems to remember exactly how many votes sugared gum got, but I figure there had to be at least one. Cast by the same guy that in a real election always votes for Donald Duck.

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