A toothpaste manufacturer is taking action, after a recent troubling discovery by a dental hygienist.
“I didn’t have any clue what it was,” Trish Walraven, a dental hygienist in Phoenix, Arizona, said.
She’s seen a lot of things poking around in people’s mouths, but until a few years ago, she had never seen anything like this.
“We thought it was a cleaning product, or something that people were chewing,” Walraven recalled.
There were little blue dots, trapped in the tiny spaces between the teeth and gums. Walraven was not alone, she asked around and other hygienists were seeing those little blue dots, too.
So what were they? Polyethylene. The plastic is used in all kinds of things, from garbage containers to grocery bags to bullet proof vests to toothpaste.
Walraven says one brand appears to use more of the plastic microbeads than the others.
“Pretty much everyone was saying that they were using some form of Crest toothpaste,” Walraven said.
Dentist Justin Phillip says those microbeads shouldn’t be anywhere near the mouth.
“They’ll trap bacteria in the gums which leads to gingivitis, and over time that infection moves from the gum into the bone that holds your teeth and that becomes periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is scary,” Dr. Phillip said.
Walraven wrote about her findings in a blog post, that has gotten the attention of Crest manufacturer Proctor and Gamble.
In a statement, the company says: “While the ingredient in question is completely safe … we understand there is a growing preference for us to remove the ingredient. So we will.”
Crest says the majority of their toothpaste will be microbead-free in six months, and completely gone by 2016.
Until then, people who want to avoid the microbeads can check the ingredient list for “polyethylene”.