Have you noticed the little plastic beads in Crest toothpaste? News outlets and people on social media have been talking about this issue a lot — and for good reason.
Crest uses polyethylene beads in their 3D Whitening products and certain other varieties of toothpaste. Polyethylene is a dense plastic that never biodegrades. It’s the same plastic used to make many plastic containers and shopping bags.
Crest will continue to use polyethylene beads until March 2016. Until then, everyone would probably do well to avoid these products. The dangers are not as bad as you might think, but there is essentially zero benefit and some risk.
Why Do Some Crest Toothpastes Contain Plastic?
Crest says they use the plastic beads (which are usually bright blue) simply to provide color to their products.
As with body scrubs and other exfoliating products, beads can also be used as an abrasive cleaning agent. Some body products use corn kernels or other natural substances, for example.
Crest uses hydrated silica beads in some products, and polyethylene plastic beads in other products. Some people want an abrasive toothpaste to help clean the teeth, but the plastic beads are more abrasive than a toothpaste needs to be.
Are These Products Toxic?
The Food and Drug Administration has declared polyethylene a safe ingredient for hygiene products. If there is a problem with using toothpaste that contains plastic, the issue does not have to do with toxicity. Many food products use packaging made of polyethylene.
As far as toxic concerns, these toothpastes do not present an issue unless you are swallowing a substantial amount of toothpaste (never a good idea!).
Why Should I Avoid Toothpaste With Polyethylene?
Our concern with polyethylene beads has to do with trapping bacteria in the mouth.
Many dentists and dental hygienists have reported finding the blue polyethylene beads stuck in patients’ gums. That’s right: little plastic balls wedged into the flesh of your gums. Polyethylene is chemically inert — the beads will not dissolve for at least several decades.
When stuck in your gums, these plastic beads create extra spaces where germs get trapped. This helps bacteria grow out of control, leading to gingivitis and potentially more serious problems.
Toothpastes We Recommend
We know everybody has their own preferences for toothpaste. You can always check the ingredients info on the packaging to avoid polyethylene.
Toothpastes we generally recommend, in no particular order:
- Crest Cavity Protection (Regular)
Toothpastes often contain many unfamiliar ingredients. If you have questions about your favorite toothpaste or want help picking a new brand, no problem!