Dark clouds hung over BriteSmile (NASDAQ:BSML) yesterday. Shares of the seller of teeth-whitening procedures, technologies, and products lost $1.50, or 17%, on nine times the average volume. Sales rose 4%, and the loss for the quarter narrowed by $0.56 per share. However, $0.13 per share of the increase was due to 50% more shares outstanding, making the results even less dazzling.

Management blamed the decline on "temporary softening in overall retail consumer demand." But apparently the worst may not be over, as it also expects fourth-quarter sales growth to decline. So how temporary is this softened demand? Hopefully it won't take as long as waiting for a scheduled dentist appointment.

Despite my engineering background, I am a strategy kind of guy. You have to understand how the business competes before you start crunching through its numbers. Otherwise, you may draw some incorrect conclusions (which I have done in the past).

That said, one part of the press release really intrigued me. Sales from in-house procedures fell. Sales from procedures performed by associates were 5% higher. But the do-it-yourself products grew 31%. That's some illuminating information.

It reminded me of Saturday's trip to Target (NYSE:TGT) with my wife. She was buying some conditioner, a frequent occurrence given the amount she and my daughter go through, when I saw a huge aisle full of teeth-whitening options. Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) promoted its Crest White Strips. Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL) showcased its Simply White. Those are some heavy hitters with deep marketing pockets; they know how to get the word out about their brands. Hmmm...

Cannibalization immediately comes to mind. Despite BriteSmile wanting to position itself in the high ground, I think too much demand is being pulled to the low end. I cannot see a large portion of the population wanting to go in for a whitening procedure, unless there is another series of the reality show "The Swan" on Fox (NYSE:FOX). It's too much buck for more bang than you need. However, I can see mass consumption where you get the right amount of value for your dollar.

I am very curious to see what BriteSmile does. It plans to open up three more centers over the next three quarters. But I will be most interested to see whether it continues to develop new products in the lower-end price range of its product line. There seems to be a brighter future in the low country. Hopefully, it can live in the shadows of those giants.

Fool contributor David Meier needs to own shares in a conditioner manufacturer. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned.