With October being National Dental Hygiene Month, it seemed only fitting to talk about a recent item in the news: the plastic materials (called polyethylene) used to make the microbeads found in some toothpastes and face cleansers.
This first came to light by a dental hygienist named Trish Walraven, who wrote a blog post about the plastic material earlier this year. The reason this has become such a hot topic is because polyethylene is not biodegradable, meaning the microbeads don’t break down.
The concern with microbeads in your toothpaste, is that instead of dissolving in water, the plastic material (i.e. microbead) is adhering to the top of and just inside the gum line of some users. To explain why this is a problem, I need to discuss the area around your teeth called the sulcus.
What is the sulcus?
One of the exam tests I do when you come in for a dental checkup is to probe around the base of each of each tooth. I typically use an instrument that looks a little like a small steel pick. During the exam I am checking the area between your teeth and gum tissue, called the sulcus.
What I am actually looking at is the depth of the sulcus, which should be between 1 and 3 millimeters. You can’t see the sulcus (which looks like a v-shaped crevice) with the naked eye.
Determining the depth of this crevice area is important, because it is the area where periodontal disease develops. The deeper the pocket the more severe the gum disease.
Microbeads Get Trapped Where Gingivitis Forms
As Walraven reported in her post, “The thing about a sulcus is that it’s vulnerable. Your dental hygienist spends most of their time cleaning every sulcus in your mouth, because if the band of tissue around your tooth isn’t healthy, then you’re not healthy. You can start to see why having bits of plastic in your sulcus may be a real problem.”
The primary cause of gum disease is bacteria. To be clear, it is not the polyethylene that causes periodontal disease. The concern is the plastic left behind that gets caught in the sulcus.
Is Polyethylene Plastic in Your Toothpaste
To tell if your toothpaste has polyethylene in it, you’ll have to read the label. Here’s the catch with most toothpastes, the ingredients are often written on the box and not the tube of toothpaste itself –the box you dispose of once you open your new tube of toothpaste.
Bottom line, if you’re unsure, don’t use it.
Keep Your Teeth Healthy
Just two minutes of teeth cleaning twice a day, flossing and mouth-washing every day, supported with regular trips to the dentist and hygienist will help keep your teeth fit for a lifetime.
To learn more about the cosmetic and restorative dental options available for improving your oral health, gums and teeth Click Here.
Or call Dr. Patty’s Dental Boutique at (954) 524-2300 or Toll-Free at 1 (855) 377-2889.
Crest Toothpaste Embeds Plastic In Our Gums
Image Credits: Dental Buzz