Gross! Plastic beads in toothpaste can get stuck in your gums

toothpaste tube
CC BY 3.0 Rafael Rozendaal

We know that plastic microbeads are bad: these tiny balls of polyethylene and polypropylene wash right through municipal sewage treatment centers and into our natural waterways. The little beads build up in lakes and oceans, and are just about impossible to remove. That’s reason enough to stop buying products that contain them.

But there’s another reason to skip toothpaste with microbeads. Those little bits of plastic can get lodged in your gums.

© Marcus Eriksen, 5 Gyres. Microplastics found in Lake Michigan.

Dental hygienist Trisha Waravan told Denver’s ABC 7 News that she regularly picks microbeads out of her client’s mouths, where they can get embedded below the gum line. Dr. Kyle Stanley, a Beverly Hills dentist, writes that he recommends patients don’t use toothpastes that contain microbeads:

“The buildup of microbeads embedded in patients’ gums has been increasingly apparent. This is very concerning because any foreign objects lodged in the gumline could lead to gingival inflammation and lead to infection, gingivitis, or periodontal disease.”

What’s even worse? Microbeads don’t even serve a purpose in toothpaste. They’re only added to make your toothpaste look cool. According to ABC 7 News (and other sources), Proctor & Gamble stated on its website that polyethylene serves as an “inactive ingredient used to provide color” in toothpastes like Crest 3D White “Vivid.” However, this statement has since been removed from the company’s public website.

To avoid toothpastes with micro plastics, skip products containing “polypropylene” or “polyethylene.” That goes for face wash and body scrubs too--you don't need to rub plastic all over your face to get clean skin.

Proctor & Gamble has promised to remove mircobeads from their products by 2017. A quicker fix would be switching toothpastes.

Tags: Health | Plastics | Water Conservation

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