PHOENIX, Ariz. (KPNX) — A dental hygienist in Arizona noticed something strange in the mouths of her patients — and she spoke up about it.
Now, a major toothpaste maker is making a big change.
“I didn’t have any clue what is was,” said dental hygienist Trish Walraven.
Walraven said she’s seen a lot of bizarre things in patients’ mouths, but until a few years ago, she never saw anything like this: little blue dots trapped in the tiny spaces between people’s teeth and gums.
“We thought it was a cleaning product or something that people were chewing,” said Walraven, who estimated she’d see five to six patients a week with the blue dots in their mouths.
So she started asking around and other hygienists were seeing them, too. It took awhile, but they finally figured out what it was: polyethylene.
That’s a type of plastic used in a variety of products, like gargabe containers, grocery bags, bullet proof vests, even knee replacements. It’s also used in toothpaste as microbeads, and Walraven said one brand appears to use the plastic beads more than others.
“Pretty much everyone was saying that they were using some form of Crest toothpaste,” she said.
A dentist in Arizona, Justin Phillip, said those microbeads shouldn’t be anywhere near a mouth.
“They’ll trap bacteria in the gums which leads to gingivitis, and over time that infection moves from the gum into the bone that holds your teeth and that becomes periodontal disease,” he said. “Periodontal disease is scary.”
Walraven wrote a blog that has since garnered national attention and even caught the eye of Crest creator Proctor and Gamble.
In a statement to ABC15, the company said:
“While the ingredient in question is completely safe … we understand there is a growing preference for us to remove the ingredient. So we will.”
Crest said the majority of its toothpaste will be microbead-free in six months. The beads will be completely gone by March 2016.
If you want to make sure the product you’re using is microbead-free, look at the ingredient list and make sure it does not include polyethylene.