What are the microbeads used in toothpaste and are they safe?
To answer this question, the JCDA Oasis Team contacted Dr. Leslie Winston DDS, PhD, at Procter & Gamble (P&G). She provided the following quick initial response.
- The colored Polyethylene (PE) specks used in Oral Care applications are safe, FDA-approved food additives. They are used in chewing gums and are commonly used in toothpastes. They are small particles made of polyethylene. They are colored with FDA approved dyes.
- In Canada, Health Canada validates the safety of oral health products. Health Canada has determined the colored polyethylene specks used in some oral care products are safe to ingest. There are no safety concerns with the limited use of polyethylene specks in some toothpastes.
- Please check back with this post for more information as updates become available.
What happens if microbeads are swallowed? Are they safe?
Polyethylene is biologically inert and as such, it is accepted as a safe material by safety authorities around the world for many uses in our daily lives including food packaging and food additives. PE specks are made of inert material and are used in chewing gums and toothpastes. PE specks are not absorbed by the body and the body will not break them down. They will pass through the digestive tract unchanged, similar to dietary fibers. Toothpaste should be used as directed, but even with some accidental ingestion, these PE speck ingredients pose no safety risk.
How can a professional clear a patient’s mouth of PE specks?
Polyethylene is biologically inert, not absorbed by the body, and the body doesn’t make enzymes to break them down. The specks will pass through the digestive tract unchanged, similar to dietary fibers. Toothpaste should be used as directed, but even with some accidental ingestion, these PE speck ingredients pose no safety risk. A patient’s normal oral care routine of brushing, flossing, and rinsing with water or mouth rinse should help clear the mouth of inert PE specks.
Do other toothpastes contain PE specks?
Yes. Many toothpaste manufacturers produce toothpastes that contain polyethylene, and several new products have been introduced in the past five years alone. In fact, more than 200 new polyethylene-containing toothpastes have been introduced in 43 countries by more than 15 manufacturers worldwide. The PE specks used in some P&G toothpastes in limited quantities will be replaced as soon as alternatives are qualified.
Why is polyethylene used in oral care products?
Polyethylene beads are commonly used as scrub beads (e.g. in exfoliating products) but are also sometimes used to impart color, like in chewing gum and toothpaste, as part of the holistic product design.
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