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Dentists Warn Consumers about Crest Toothpaste

Update Date: Sep 18, 2014 11:03 AM EDT

One dental hygienist discovered a particular ingredient in Crest brand toothpastes that could pose a health risk for consumers. According to Trish Walraven, she started noticing small blue specks in her patients' gum lines. After asking other hygienists, she realized that the blue specks were polyethylene.

"We thought it was a cleaning product or something people were chewing," Walraven stated according to WCPO. "Pretty much everyone was saying that they were using some form of Crest toothpaste."

Walraven then realized that the blue specks came from different kinds of Crest toothpastes. Although polyethylene is an ingredient that can be commonly found in garbage containers, grocery bags and bulletproof vests, it is also used in toothpaste.

Since polyethylene is a plastic that is not biodegradable, it could negatively affect peoples' oral health. These microbeads, which look like tiny blue-green flecks," can get stuck inside the gum line. When left there, the microbeads can lead to gingival irritation. Walraven discussed her concerns about the potential dangers surrounding polyethylene in her blog.

"Around our teeth we have these little channels in our gums, sort of like the cuticles around our fingernails," Walraven explained. "A healthy [gum channel] is no deeper than about 3 millimeters, so when you have hundreds of pieces of plastic being scrubbed into your gums each day that are even smaller than a millimeter, many of them are getting trapped."

Walraven added that the use of this ingredient is solely for "decorative purposes." After Walraven and other hygienists brought up these concerns, Procter & Gamble (P&G), which manufactures these toothpastes stated that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved polyethylene as a safe ingredient to use. The company added, however, that it has listened to these concerns and will slowly remove the ingredient. In the meantime, P&G reminded consumers that there are toothpaste options without microbeads in it.

"While the ingredient in question is... part of an enjoyable brushing experience for millions of consumers with no issues, we understand there is a growing preference for us to remove this ingredient," P&G officials said. "So we will."

The company's spokesperson added, "The majority of our product volume will be microbead-free within six months. We will complete our removal process by March of 2016."

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