The silvery flecks seen in Crest MultiCare Whitening toothpaste are actually plastic microbeads. (CC/Scott Ehardt)
DALLAS, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Toothpaste is supposed to help clean your teeth and get rid of leftover food. But for some Crest toothpaste users, that leftover food is just being replaced with tiny microbeads -- making smiles look spotty and gums speckled, not sparkling white and debris-free.
Crest says that won't be the case for long, however, as the maker of Crest toothpastes, Procter & Gamble, announced today that it will cease including the microbeads in their products and that all toothpastes containing the tiny polyethylene plastic balls will be off the shelves within six months.
"We currently have products without microbeads for those who would prefer them," the company wrote in an email to Phoenix news station ABC15.
The company began receiving flak for their toothpastes' ingredients after a story about the concerns of a Texas dental hygienist, Trish Walraven, grabbed the attention of online readers and got picked up by a range of local news sites. Walraven complained that she was continually finding the microbeads trapped under her patients' gums.
"Polyethylene plastic is in your toothpaste for decorative purposes only," Walraven wrote on her personal blog. "This is unacceptable not only to me, but to many, many hygienists nationwide. We are informing our patients."
"For a long time I've noticed the little tiny speckles and I thought it was just some type of coloration they put in there," Dr. Loyd Dowd, with Tyler Dental Care, told local Texas news station KLTV. "Our dental hygienist says that she takes them out from around people's teeth all the time."
Some other smaller brands employ the same types of beads, but Crest toothpastes are the most prominent to use the plastic specks. The beads are approved for use in foods and healthcare products (like toothpaste and face scrubs) by the FDA.
But that doesn't mean they're necessarily a good idea.
"If it was left in there [in the gums], it could potentially cause some gingival irritation," Dr. Brian Moore, a dentist in Kentucky, told Tulsa news station KJRH. "Any time you have any foreign body in the pocket around the tooth, it's a breeding ground for bacteria."
The American Dental Association (ADA) says they're not planning on rescinding their seal of approval from Crest products that contain microbeads.
"The Council will continue to monitor and evaluate new scientific information on this issue as it becomes available," the ADA said in a statement. "In the meantime, the ADA recommends that individuals continue to follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recommendations on the use of dental health care products."