Are Microbeads in Crest 3D White Toothpaste Safe?

You know those small balls in your toothpaste? They're made of a plastic that does not decompose and they're getting found embedded deep in the gums.

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Are Microbeads in Crest 3D White Toothpaste Safe?

It was our dental hygienist Susan who pointed it out. She was seeing patients coming in with blue flecks deep inside their gums. It turns out these were coming from Crest 3D White toothpaste, which contains blue microbeads.

These microbeads are made out of the same plastic used in grocery bags. “But I spit out my toothpaste, so what’s the problem?” Since the plastic doesn’t biodegrade, toothpaste microbeads wiggle their way into the small spaces between the teeth and gums and that’s how they start to cause problems.

Here’s what Crest toothpaste microbeads look like embedded in the gums from someone using Crest 3D Whitening toothpaste:

crest 3d whitening toothpaste in gums
Blue flecks embedded in the gums after using Crest 3D Whitening toothpaste

Plastic is in your toothpaste and it’s getting embedded deep inside your gums long after you’re done brushing and rinsing. It’s there for good unless your dentist or hygienist finds it and is able to fish it out.

I did some research on polyethylene, the name of this plastic, and it appears to be for the most part safe — but that’s not the issue.

Plastic on contact with tissues may be safe, and perhaps even ingestion of plastic, but these microbeads could cause a foreign body response.

I’ve seen that even the hull of a popcorn kernel stuck in the gums causes a foreign body response because it is not digestible, just like plastic.

The issue with adding plastic to toothpaste is this. Plastic this small can cause a foreign body response, since it easily gets stuck in the gums. A foreign body response can involve swelling, bleeding, tenderness, and even eventual loss of the tooth. Is this something Crest has considered?

Even if you’re not using this toothpaste, this still affects you.

Every time this toothpaste is used, these little blue flecks are spit into the sink and into the ocean, so you can expect that polyethylene will be in your next bite of seafood.

So, why would Crest add plastic to toothpaste? These microbeads are typically used in cosmetics to help exfoliate, but there’s no need to exfoliate your teeth or gums.

And even Crest admits this. According to a page about the use of polyethylene in their products, Crest says that polyethylene is added for “decorative purposes only.”

Plastic is pretty!

When does this marketing nonsense stop? Do not fall for it. Let Crest know you aren’t buying it and to take polyethylene out of their toothpaste.

Always remember this when shopping for a toothpaste: All that toothpaste is supposed to be is a mild polishing or abrasive agent that assists the toothbrush in removing biofilm. That’s it!

Decorative plastic is, in my opinion, completely unacceptable.

What to Do If You Have Plastic Stuck in Your Gums

1. Switch toothpastes. Manufacturers often include ingredients on the box and not the tube, so use this website to search for your toothpaste’s ingredients. The ingredient to look for: polyethylene. At least 12 Crest toothpastes contain microbeads of polyethylene.

2. Contact Crest. Ask them to stop putting plastic in their products. Click here to send Crest an email or call (800) 492-7378 in the US and Canada.

3. Share this article with family and friends via email and social media. I will be working to get the word out about this and I can’t do it without your help.

Mark Burhenne DDS

Update: Crest responded to this article and your advocacy with a commitment to making the majority of their products polyethylene microbead-free in the next six months and completely microbead-free by March 2016.

crest reply to ask the dentist

Bravo, Crest, for listening to your customers concerns! I’m very pleased to see these polyethylene balls getting removed from toothpastes.

In the meantime, throw out any toothpastes you have with “polyethylene” in the ingredients.

Read Next: Fluoride Pros and Cons: Is Fluoride Safe?

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Leave a Comment

  1. These people should be put in jail. Fuck 2016. Plastic is poisonous and know to decrease hormone levels in men. And god knows what else… lawsuit time.

    • Deep down, I agree with what you’re saying, but it’s a complicated world out there and small steps in the right direction are probably all we can expect. If people like you and I continue not to buy this stuff and continue to voice our discontent, we will be able to make a dent.

      – Dr. B

  2. Esmeralda says:

    So whats the best tooth past to use for my family

    • Keep it simple: you don’t need a lot of ingredients, and all the fancy chemicals and claims they make don’t work. Toothpaste is just meant to be a mild abrasive that helps the toothbrush remove the biofilm of the tooth. Stay away from these bad ingredients: Sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan, and polyethylene. I’ve created a guide for choosing a safe toothpaste, which you can download for free right here:

  3. I’ve used this toothpaste ONCE at a friends house one night. I should be okay right?

    • Bryan, yes! I’m sure it’ll be fine. If you notice any blue beads that get stuck beneath the gums, you can see your hygienist who should be able to fish them out for you.

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  5. Thank you for writing such a wonderful article, it is really going to motivate people to achieve something big and dream bigger in future.

    • Thank you for saying that!

      Composed on my phone. Please excuse the brevity and any typos.

      Dr. Mark Burhenne | Read reviews for The 8-Hour Sleep Paradox Facebook | Twitter | YouTube (408) 737-2100

      Schedule a Skype or phone consultation with me

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  8. You said the Crest microbead “can” cause foreign body response. Can you please provide the reference for that claim?

  9. Jennifer Champagne says:

    I am SO glad I found this article! I have always taken really good care of my teeth. I brush for 6-7 minutes, just to make sure I get every nook and cranny. I have always flossed daily too. I used the Crest 3D White, every day, for 5 years straight. I began to have extremely painful sensitivity in my gums and teeth, then I started to notice that my teeth were turning black, right along the edge of the gum lines. I had a suspicion that the toothpaste had something to do with it, so I quit using it. That was 2 years ago and all of my once perfect teeth, are rotting from the gum line up. They are crumbling. With all my molars, there are only little nubs of tooth left. And now, my FRONT teeth are starting to crumble too! I have been so upset about it that it’s ruining my life. I’m afraid to smile now, and even talked to people is getting difficult for me! I haven’t gone to the dentist yet because for one, it’s all happened so fast, and also because I am terrified of being told that my teeth have to be pulled and replaced with dentures. I HAD beautiful teeth and I was so proud of them. I just knew that damn toothpaste had something to do with this mess! As a dentist, what is your opinion on the future of my teeth? Do you think they’ll be salvageable with those microbeads embedded in my gums all these years??

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