Toothpaste Microbeads: The Controversy

We all love that fresh, clean feel of newly brushed teeth. You run your tongue over your teeth and bask in the glory of that delightfully smooth finished surface. It’s one of your first and last accomplishments for the day, but have you ever really thought about how your teeth take on that wonderful smooth transformation? It’s not just your toothbrush buffing away all of that plague and those leftover food particles. Toothpaste doesn’t just freshen your breath and chase away gingivitis, it is made up of multiple components which help aid your toothbrush in giving your teeth that glorious smooth feeling. For many toothpastes, one of those components are microbeads. Those tiny, crystalline beads have been causing quite the ruckus of late.

In the News

Since the beginning of the year, more and more areas in the world are moving to place a ban on microbeads found in toothpaste, facewash, soaps and other hygienic products. It began in January with several European countries who requested the European Union ban the tiny plastic beads. The idea of a ban has spread like wildfire. Seven states in the US have moved to place bans on the beads, and on August 1st the Canadian government added the beads to the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of toxic substances. The Canadian government hopes to move forward and ban the production and consumption of any products containing microbeads. In response to the recent outcry against microbeads, several companies have vowed to phase out the use of them in their products, including Proctor and Gamble and Johnson and Johnson.

What’s the Problem?

fish photo
Photo by ChrisA1995

Almost all of these beads found in hygienic products are non-biodegradable plastic. While you are basking in the glory of your wonderful smile and fresh breath, you’re sending these plastic beads down the drain. Since they’re so small, they are not caught in filters and are released into bodies of water, potentially harming marine life. Certain fish and coral may mistake these tiny beads as food. Their bodies are unable to digest it, so it can sit in their gut and cause them to starve. These microbeads are also known to absorb certain chemicals which may lead to harmful consequences in marine life. Furthermore, fish eating mammals, including humans, are at risk for ingesting microbeads leftover in their dinner’s body.

What do microbeads mean for your teeth?

While we all enjoy their perceived cleaning power, brushing with toothpastes which contain microbeads can actually be working to your disadvantage. Dentists have found that the microbeads may become trapped in the crevices between your teeth and gums. There, they harbor bacteria and over time could lead to gingivitis and even periodontal disease.

The take-away

These toothpaste microbeads may make you feel more confident in your smile because you can physically see the abrasives , but in actuality you do not need them to achieve that amazing clean enamel surface. There are many great toothpastes you can use that do not contain microbeads. To avoid using these beads in the future, do not use any toothpaste which lists polyethylene or polypropylene as an ingredient. Happy brushing!

Dan Matthews DDS
Dan Matthews Dan Matthews DDS The Park at Eanes Creek,
4407 Bee Cave Road
Building 2, Suite 221
Austin, Texas, 78746
(512) 452-2273
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