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

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:

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.

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 believed 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—an unsurprising result, and simply an endorsement of sugarless gum, not Trident in particular. However, since people remember the ad and its sponsor lo these many years later, the campaign clearly had the desired result.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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