Colgate-Palmolive's (NYSE: CL) sparkly earnings, announced this morning, lead to an interesting conclusion. We are obsessed with teeth. Seriously. Not just any old teeth, either, but stark white teeth. Try to buy toothpaste these days that doesn't have some "brightening" component. You'd be hard-pressed to find one.

All this attention to our pearly choppers is good news for Colgate-Palmolive. The company's toothpastes, whitening products, and electric toothbrushes are competing well against Procter & Gamble's(NYSE: PG) Crest line of similar items. They're also banking lots of cash for Colgate.

Sales for the fourth quarter, on a dollar basis, rose 4% to $2.4 billion. Stripping out currency effects (Colgate-Palmolive gets 74% of its business outside of North America), sales were up 6%, with worldwide unit volume improving 6%.

Quarterly earnings were also shinier. Colgate-Palmolive netted $341 million, 15% ahead of last year's $295 million. Excluding a charge in the year-ago period, that translates into $0.59 a share, versus $0.52.

The stalwart credited its many new products for its solid results. Chief among them is Colgate Simply White, a gel that users paint onto teeth for whitening effects. It sells for half of what rival Crest White Strips cost, and according to the company, Colgate grabbed over 40% of the American at-home whitening market in 2002.

Lest you think we're the only country obsessed with ivory teeth, Colgate reports that its whitening toothpastes and products sold extremely well in all markets. (Hold your "bad British teeth" jokes!) And Colgate promises many more new items are in the pipeline for 2003.

That seems hard to believe. At last count, the company offers 13 whitening toothpastes and two at-home whitening products. Sheesh, remember when tartar and plaque were the only enemies?