Trish Walraven has seen a lot of things in a lot of mouths, but until a few years ago, she’d never seen anything like this.
“I didn’t have any clue what is was,” she told KNXV in Phoenix. Little blue dots were trapped in the tiny spaces between patients’ teeth and gums. When Walraven starting asking around, she learned other hygienists were seeing it too. It took a while, but they finally figured out what it was.
“Polyethylene,” said Walraven.
Polyethylene is a plastic used in all kinds of things, ranging from garbage containers to grocery bags and even bullet-proof vests. Walraven says one brand — Crest — appears to use the plastic microbeads more than others.
A Phoenix-area dentist says the microbeads shouldn’t be in your toothpaste.
“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,” said Dr. Justin Phillip. “Periodontal disease is scary.”
Walraven wrote a blog about the microbeads that caught the attention of Proctor and Gamble. They released a statement to KNXV, which read, “While the ingredient in question is completely safe, we understand there is a growing preference for us to remove the ingredient. So we will.”