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Did you know that polyethylene is the most common plastic in the world? It is used primarily for containers and packaging, such as these bottles and plastic grocery bags, and has been a concern for the environment because polyethylene lasts practically forever and isn’t biodegradable. It only breaks down into smaller and smaller particles until you can’t see it anymore. That’s why a couple of states are trying to ban it in body scrubs and dental products.
If you watch television at all, you’ve likely seen the commercials. These commercials feature new types of toothpaste from a variety of companies that have embedded tiny microbeads in every tube of toothpaste. The claim: these microbeads get out plaque, prevent cavities, and whiten your teeth. Here’s why you should skip it.
What’s In Your Toothpaste?
What are in these tiny microbeads in your toothpaste? There are plenty of natural exfoliants that skin care and dental care companies can put in your products, like coconut husks and apricot seeds, but they don’t use those. Rather, they put in tiny plastic beads to cut through tartar and plaque.
Why You Should Skip the Plastic Beads
These microbeads are, to put it simply, terrible for your teeth. The controversy started when dental hygienists and dentists started finding tiny bits of plastic stuck in their patients’ gums every day. Anything stuck in your teeth is an irritant—just think of the last time you got a popcorn hull stuck in there.
However, these plastic beads do not wear away with time. Dentists told Washington Post that these beads do not degrade or disintegrate. They just stick in your teeth and gums, wearing away at your gums year after year. This can lead to gingivitis as the plastic whittles your gums down.
In addition, these beads can open the door for bacteria to make their home in your mouth. Plastic microbeads can trap bacteria in your gums, possibly creating cavities, abscesses, and periodontal disease. If this problem becomes severe, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in dental bills down the line.
Experiments with these plastic microbeads have turned up disturbing results. A popular dental blogger notes that they do not dissolve in acetone or alcohol.
Plastic beads aren’t just bad for your mouth. They are also bad news for the environment. Like other plastic materials, microbeads do not break down over time. They just sit in our planet’s earth and water supply, taking up space, soaking up toxins, and making the space around them more and more toxic.
Better Options for Your Teeth
The good news is that Crest, the primary manufacturer of these toothpastes, is phasing out the inclusion of plastic beads in their toothpastes. However, you still have to be a savvy consumer. They won’t finish phasing them out until March 2016, so you have some time yet to make sure you’re not sticking bits of plastic in your mouth.
Furthermore, the American Dental Association and the Food and Drug Administration stand behind the use of these beads, calling them completely safe. This may allow other manufacturers to use them in the future. Using a natural toothpaste that clearly states its ingredients is your best bet for you and your family.
Health and beauty products are supposed to make you feel and look better, not destroy your health! This is just one example of a product that sacrifices safety and efficacy for hype. Make sure you know what’s in your family’s toothpaste.
What you can do
At this point, it’s probably best if you leave your flaming torches back in the barn. We’re not going after witches or Frankenstein here; you’re using your power as a consumer to send a message that you do NOT want plastic in your toothpaste. Heck, you might even be worrying about what may happen if you or your children swallow some of it.
1. If you’ve already purchased one of these toothpastes you can take it back to the retailer where you bought it, make sure that the manufacturer knows why you’re returning it, and ask for a refund.
2. Lodge a Crest consumer complaint at (800) 959-6586 and report an adverse health effect, namely, that you’re concerned that plastic pieces may be getting trapped in your mouth.
3. Click here to send an email to Procter & Gamble, the makers of Crest.
4. Share this! Let your friends and family know that you are also concerned about the plastic in their toothpaste by clicking on your favorite social media link below and getting the word out.