1001 Uses For Dental Floss #47- Plastic Beads In Toothpaste (What?!)

My daughter Rebecca found this article about tiny plastic beads in certain varieties of Crest toothpaste, apparently put there by the manufacturer to give the toothpaste its blue colour. As some of us may know, there is great controversy in the inclusion of plastic beads as an abrasive in some “invigorating” body wash soaps, supposedly as a scrub enhancement or exfoliating agent. They wash down the drain and into large bodies of water like the Great Lakes and our oceans.

These beads, made of the polyethylene, have been found in the bodies of plankton, tiny sea creatures which are an important part of the marine food chain, and have been adversely affected by them, as they may block their digestive tracts, causing them to starve to death. These little animals are eaten by larger creatures, such as fish, and the beads progressively work their way up the food chain. The plastic also has the sponge-like property of soaking up pollutants like motor oil and pesticides. On the positive side, polyethylene doesn’t contain bisphenyl A, so it seems to be safe from that standpoint (that is, it doesn’t contain this hormonal disruptor.)

Although the plastic beads in this brand of toothpaste are much smaller and so may be less of a threat to the aquatic ecosystem, we don’t really know how harmful they may be. What we do know is that in people, these tiny plastic bits have been found in the gingival crevice, the narrow space between the gum and the tooth, and are difficult if not impossible to dislodge. This happened to my daughter.

Although regulators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have approved the use of these plastic beads, as there is no real evidence that they’re dangerous to health, no comment has been received from the Environmental Protection Agency, I guess because no one asked. On the other hand, they have no  health benefits. Many dentists, though, are questioning the possible effects of the beads retained below the gum, as they fear that they may form a surface which harbours oral bacteria, and so may endanger the health of the gums.  So far, no scientific inquiries have been carried out to test this possibility, which means that the effect is unknown, not that it is nonexistent. I don’t tend to be alarmist, but these plastics don’t  break down naturally, and they’re not biodegradable.

The use of these beads has been banned in Illinois.

Crest put out a statement recently that it has begun phasing out microbeads from its products, a process that will be completed by March 2016. A spokesman for the company told the Washington Post that the decision was made “months ago” in response to “changing consumer and dental professional preferences.” One questions why it should take so long to do this, but with no urgent threat to public health, economic considerations seem to be taking precedence.

“While the ingredient in question is completely safe, approved for use in foods by the FDA, and part of an enjoyable brushing experience for millions of consumers with no issues, we understand there is a growing preference for us to remove this ingredient. So we will.” the company said in a statement. “We currently have products without microbeads for those who would prefer them. We have begun removing microbeads from the rest of our toothpastes, and the majority of our product volume will be microbead-free within six months.”

The American Dental Association, which endorses some Crest products, stands behind the beads, citing a lack of clinical evidence questioning their safety. The ADA has not revoked their approval of these products, citing a lack of scientific evidence against them.
The ADA’ s statement is: “The American Dental Association’s (ADA) Council on Scientific Affairs, on an ongoing basis, monitors and evaluates the safety of all ADA Seal-Accepted products. If the council’s evaluation determines sufficient scientific evidence exists that an ADA Seal-Accepted product poses a health risk, the council has the authority to withdraw the Seal from that product. At this time, clinically relevant dental health studies do not indicate that the Seal should be removed from toothpastes that contain polyethylene microbeads.”

Anyway, remember to floss. Floss contains no microbes. So far.

This article is based on one by Abby Philip found in the Washington Post, dated September 14, 2014.



1001 Uses For Dental Floss #29- Flossing While Driving

So you thought texting and driving was a dangerous mix. This story would probably strike most of us as a not very endearing use for floss, even gruesome, but this is a pretty intricate story.

A man driving his Toyota Prius along the superhighway in Connecticut was killed in a
bizarre and gruesome accident, or so it seemed (to be an accident, that is). According to the police report, the man was flossing his teeth with a floss pick while driving. It seems his car was rear-ended by a large pickup truck, causing the airbags to deploy. The force of impact between the airbag and the dental pick apparently drove the dental hygiene tool through his tissues into his skull, killing him.

Stop right now, you’re screaming, I don’t want to hear any more. But you do, don’t you?

The deceased seems to have had two passions in life, the environment (hence the Prius, which requires very little gas to run), and oral hygiene, to the point of being a compulsive flosser (like spending a large part of his waking time actively flossing his teeth). And guess who resented not being included in love triangle? His former girlfriend. She seems to have developed quite a resentment at being second fiddle to a bit of floss. And guess who was driving the pickup truck that rammed into the deceased’s car? It was this woman.

It seems, according to a police spokeman, that she knew his habits, knew he would be flossing while driving, and deliberately rammed him hard enough to kill him. THe report doesn’t say whether there was enough evidence to arrest and try the girlfriend, so maybe not, so we’re left wondering: Did this really happen?

If this was a game of Clue, would it be the former girlfriend in the pickup truck with the floss?

And the morals of this sad tale? Don’t floss and drive. Don’t floss so much that you drive love out of your life. And don’t floss so much that the love of your life drives the floss into you.