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:
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.
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.
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?