microbeads in toothpasteChances are, you’ve used a product that contains “microbeads,” tiny balls of plastic that are used in some toothpastes, body washes, and beauty products. They seem relatively inoffensive, look pretty enough, and add the sensation of an exfoliating or cleansing boost. Problem is, they’re also a potential threat to your health and to the environment.

If these beads get lodged between your teeth and gums while brushing, they can act as irritants to your periodontal tissues. If they manage to work their way deeper, they could end up causing gingivitis and opening the door to gum infections. The beads are also abrasive, and can aggravate your enamel and cause undue wear and tear. And since they’re not biodegradable, they don’t go away – even if they’re taking up residence in your gum line.

More and more dental hygienists are finding these beads in their patients’ gums, and warning them against certain products. How do you know which ones to stay away from? Check the list below.

Are There Microbeads in My Toothpaste?

This can be slightly tricky to answer, because none of the products containing the beads list them outright. Instead, their labels include “polyethylene” or “polypropylene.” These are the types of plastic used to make the tiny beads, and they’re the ones you want to watch out for. Here’s a more comprehensive list of all products containing these plastic beads.

Until recently, several Crest toothpastes contained microbeads (especially their whitening pastes). But consumer pushback has led them to phase the beads out of products, with the final bead gone by March 2016. While some states have passed legislation outlawing microbeads due to their buildup in the water supply, Georgia doesn’t currently have related legislation on the table.

What Do Microbeads Do?

In terms of their role in toothpaste, they are purely cosmetic. Consumers like the appearance of the beads to break up slimy-looking paste. And since their abrasiveness can erode enamel, they’re actually far more negative than positive. Do your part by avoiding the beads, both for your own health and for the local environment.