The health of our teeth is extremely important to the health of the rest of our body, and it’s not hard to manage. Just make sure to brush your teeth three times a day, floss, and go to the dentist once a year. Even with those healthy habits, some people have unexpected dental problems, and they never imagined the cause behind them.
Blair McCarthy, a teenager from Tampa Bay, recently had her braces taken off. She was excited to finally be free of them since she had them on for a whole year. Her straight teeth felt great and they looked even better. She was looking forward to showing off her new smile to her friends. But, that wouldn’t be the end of her visits to the dentist.
Not too long after Blaire had her braces taken off, she began to feel a weird pain in her gums. At first, Blaire just shrugged it off as pain related to the procedure she had. Blaire took some painkillers and hoped the pain would just go away on its own. But what she didn’t know, was that her problems were only beginning.
One day, Blaire and her mother, Sally, were talking at the dinner table. Sally noticed something strange in her daughter’s mouth. There was a small object stuck in Blaire’s gums, right next to the tooth. Sally thought it could’ve been food, but Blaire had just brushed her teeth and her dental hygiene was always pretty good. Sally decided to take her daughter back to the dentist.
Sally then took Blaire to their longtime dentist, Dr. Larry Klein. Blaire sat down in the dentist’s chair so he could examine her tooth. After Sally’s direction, he was able to locate the small object in Blaire’s mouth. At first, he couldn’t tell what it was. In order to find out what it was, he would need to get much closer. Luckily, he knew just what to do.
Dr. Klein was able to use his newly purchased state-of-the-art intraoral camera. This device would allow Dr. Klein to find any abnormalities and magnify them to properly diagnose the problem in Blaire’s mouth. Once he used it on Blaire, he was able to find out exactly what it was that was stuck in her gum, or at least what color it was.
It appeared that the object was blue! In order to eliminate other causes, the dentist asked if Blaire had eaten anything unusual lately. Blaire put some thought into it and realized that she hadn’t eaten anything that would create the blue coloring, except for maybe some candy, or sprinkled donuts. She had a sweet tooth, but food wasn’t the culprit here. Dr. Klein continued to magnify the object.
After close inspection, Dr. Klein realized the object that was stuck was a tiny piece of plastic. Blaire had no idea how the piece of plastic could have possibly gotten stuck in her gums. Maybe she had tried to open a plastic bag with her teeth. Or maybe she was chewing on a pen cap too hard. But then the doctor asked a very peculiar question.
The dentist asked what kind of toothpaste Blaire used. She didn’t know why that was important, but she immediately knew the answer. Blaire had used Crest 3D White for as long as she could remember. It was her absolute favorite toothpaste to use, but she was about to get some bad news.
Dr. Klein told Blaire and her mother that the object in her gums was actually one of the small plastic beads from her toothpaste. Well, technically they’re polyethylene microbeads. The beads can be found in Blaire’s toothpaste, as well others like Crest Pro-Health. The doctor explained that the beads don’t dissolve so they can get stuck underneath teeth pretty easily. Blaire and Sally couldn’t believe what they were being told.
In an interview, Sally said that she was “surprised to hear that this was going on.” Blaire wished that she had known about it sooner. “Why haven’t we heard about this before, why are we just finding this out now?” They were asking good questions, ones that would soon be investigated by a local news station.
After the news spread of the horrifying experience, Tampa news station WFLA began investigating the issue of the microbeads. By putting the toothpaste on a coffee filter and running it through hot water, they discovered that the beads stayed on the filter and didn’t dissolve. The journalists assumed that Blaire’s case wasn’t the first, and they were absolutely right.
After interviewing several dentists in the Tampa Bay area, they found out that many of them had the same thing happen to their patients. What’s even worse, is that the lodged microbeads can cause health problems. “Over a period of time, you get bacteria that build up around it, it’d get inflamed. It could be potentially a problem,” said Dr. Klein. Of course, the beads must be there for a reason, right?
Dr. Klein seems to think that they’re unnecessary. “It doesn’t help with the cleaning, it doesn’t help with the flavor. It’s just for decoration.” Thankfully, it didn’t take too much to remove the bead from Blaire’s gums. He did suggest switching brands, which they are more than happy to do. But since this isn’t an isolated problem, shouldn’t something be done about it? The American Dental Association says: Not really.
“At this time, clinically relevant dental health studies do not indicate that the seal should be removed from toothpastes that contain polyethylene microbeads,” said a statement released from the ADA. They rejected a request to take away their seal of approval of the beads. But the brand’s parent company decided differently.
The company that makes Crest toothpaste, P&G, decided to fix the problem and stop using the microbeads in their toothpaste. “We understand there is a growing preference for us to remove the ingredient. So we will.” In the next six months P&G hope to removed all of the beads, and promised to have them all removed within the next year.