There is a new danger in some toothpaste formulas. They are tiny plastic microbeads that have been added “for decorative purposes”. They look like little blue dots in the toothpaste. And they can get embedded in your gums. The plastic is polyethylene, and that is the word to look for when you check the ingredients on a box of toothpaste.
There have been several articles posted online about this problem in recent months. One, posted on DentalBuzz.com, was written by dental hygienist Trish Walraven. She writes:
“I’m seeing these same bits of blue plastic stuck in my patients’ mouths almost every day. Around our teeth we have these little channels in our gums, sort of like the cuticles around our fingernails. The gum channel is called a sulcus, and it’s where diseases like gingivitis get their start. A healthy sulcus is no deeper than about 3 millimeters, so when you have hundreds of pieces of plastic being scrubbed into your gums each day that are even smaller than a millimeter, many of them are getting trapped.”
Another article was on askthedentist.com by Dr. Mark Burhenne, DDS. He writes that “these microbeads could cause a foreign body response A foreign body response can deepen the pocket and lead to a periodontal defect. It can involve swelling, bleeding, tenderness, and even eventual loss of the tooth.”
Dr. Burhenne also reminds us that the microbeads we spit out end up in the ocean and are likely to be ingested by fish. And like other plastic waste, this adds to the excess plastic polluting our rivers, lakes and seas.
The major brand that includes polyethylene in their toothpaste is Crest, particularly in their “whitening” formulas. If you are using one of those and it has visible blue dots in the paste, you may want to discard it and try another brand. Always read the ingredients on the box. Usually the tubes themselves do not have all ingredients listed.
A number of consumers have already contacted Proctor & Gamble, makers of Crest, to voice their dissatisfaction with the formulation. As a result, Crest has said that it will be phasing out polyethylene in most of its Crest formulas. We hope this story will encourage consumers to check ingredient labels on all personal care items and to let companies know when they are concerned about a particular product.
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