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Oral Health Research Periodontics Restorative Dentistry

What are the effects of triclosan/copolymer containing toothpastes for oral health?


This summary is based on the Cochrane systematic review: Triclosan/copolymer containing toothpastes for oral health 


  • Periodontal disease and dental caries are highly prevalent oral diseases that can lead to pain and discomfort, oral hygiene and aesthetic problems, and eventually tooth loss, all of which can be costly to treat and are a burden to healthcare systems.
  • Triclosan is an antibacterial agent with low toxicity, which, along with a copolymer for aiding retention, can be added to toothpastes to reduce plaque and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).
  • It is important that these additional ingredients do not interfere with the anticaries effect of the fluoride present in toothpastes, and that they are safe. 
  • Purpose of the Review
  • To assess the effects of triclosan/copolymer containing fluoride toothpastes, compared with fluoride toothpastes, for the long-term control of caries, plaque and gingivitis in children and adults.


  • There was moderate-quality evidence showing that toothpastes containing triclosan/copolymer, in addition to fluoride, reduced plaque, gingival inflammation and gingival bleeding when compared with fluoride toothpastes without triclosan/copolymer.
  • These reductions may or may not be clinically important, and are evident regardless of initial plaque and gingivitis levels, or whether a baseline oral prophylaxis had taken place or not.
  • High-quality evidence showed that triclosan/copolymer toothpastes lead to a small reduction in coronal caries.
  • There was weaker evidence to show that triclosan/copolymer toothpastes may have reduced root caries and calculus, but insufficient evidence to show whether or not they prevented periodontitis.
  • There do not appear to be any serious safety concerns regarding the use of triclosan/copolymer toothpastes in studies up to three years in duration.

Main Results


  • Compared with the control group, after six to seven months of use, triclosan/copolymer toothpaste reduced plaque by 0.47 on a 0 to 5 scale (MD -0.47, 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.60 to -0.34, 20 studies, 2675 participants, moderate-quality evidence). The control group mean was 2.17, representing a 22% reduction in plaque.
  • After six to seven months of use, it also reduced the proportion of sites scoring 3 to 5 on a 0 to 5 scale by 0.15 (MD -0.15, 95% CI -0.20 to -0.10, 13 studies, 1850 participants, moderate-quality evidence). The control group mean was 0.37, representing a 41% reduction in plaque severity. 


  • After six to nine months of use, triclosan/copolymer toothpaste reduced inflammation by 0.27 on a 0 to 3 scale (MD -0.27, 95% CI -0.33 to -0.21, 20 studies, 2743 participants, moderate-quality evidence).The control group mean was 1.22, representing a 22% reduction in inflammation.
  • After six to seven months of use, it reduced the proportion of bleeding sites (i.e. scoring 2 or 3 on the 0 to 3 scale) by 0.13 (MD -0.13, 95% CI -0.17 to -0.08, 15 studies, 1998 participants, moderate-quality evidence). The control group mean was 0.27, representing a 48% reduction in bleeding.


  • After 36 months of use, there was no evidence of a difference between triclosan/copolymer toothpaste and control in the development of periodontitis (attachment loss) (RR 0.92, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.27, one study, 480 participants, low-quality evidence).


  • After 24 to 36 months of use, triclosan/copolymer toothpaste slightly reduced coronal caries when using the decayed and filled surfaces (DFS) index (MD -0.16, 95% CI -0.31 to -0.02, four studies, 9692 participants, high-quality evidence). The control group mean was 3.44, representing a 5% reduction in coronal caries.
  • After 36 months of use, triclosan/copolymer toothpaste probably reduced root caries (MD -0.31, 95% CI -0.39 to -0.23, one study, 1357 participants, moderate-quality evidence).


  • After six months of use, triclosan/copolymer toothpaste may have reduced the mean total calculus per participant by 2.12 mm (MD -2.12 mm, 95% CI -3.39 to -0.84, two studies, 415 participants, low-quality evidence). The control group mean was 14.61 mm, representing a 15% reduction in calculus.

Adverse effects

  • There were no data available for meta-analysis regarding adverse effects, but 22 studies (73%) reported that there were no adverse effects caused by either the experimental or control toothpaste.
  • There was considerable heterogeneity present in the meta-analyses for plaque, gingivitis and calculus. Plaque and gingivitis showed such consistent results that it did not affect our conclusions, but the reader may wish to interpret the results with more caution.


Do you have any particular question on this topic? Do you have any comments or suggestions? Email us at oasisdiscussions@cda-adc.ca

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  1. Curtis Arling December 17, 2013

    My concern is the increasing enviromental levels of triclosan and the issues this could lead to. The results of the study above do not convince me that there is enough benefit to outwiegh the enviromental risks.
    A quote from the FDA “Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation. However, data showing effects in animals don’t always predict effects in humans. Other studies in bacteria have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics”.
    A quote from the American National Resources Defense Council in 2010. “In just two years, human exposure to triclosan has dramatically risen and now there is evidence that our food supply could also be contaminated with these chemicals. With no proven benefit and many red flags raised for harmful health impacts, the use of these so-called anti-microbials is an unnecessary and stupid use of toxic chemicals.”

  2. James Lanoway December 17, 2013

    Interesting that this is posted just 24 hours after the FDA has publicly expressed concerns about triclosan in soaps. Several studies have shown that triclosan can alter hormone regulation in animals and there is some thought that it might be contributing to resistance to anti-biotics. The FDA has put the soap manufacturing companies on notice (ie prove a benefit or remove it from the soaps). I wonder how long they will let it remain in toothpastes since it does nothing for periodonitis, only gingivitis?


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