Why Do Companies Still Put a Banned Chemical in Your Toothpaste?

Why Do Companies Still Put a Banned Chemical in Your Toothpaste?
Toxins and Chemicals

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently banned the use of the antibacterial agent triclosan in soaps. Yet it remains in one of the most popular toothpastes: Colgate Total.

So if it is banned for our skin, why does it remain in toothpaste? Largely because the Colgate Company has demonstrated that toothpastes with this chemical are more effective against gingivitis and plaque.

Susan Maples, a dentist and author, told Yahoo! Beauty in an interview the reason why she was concerned about triclosan-based toothpastes:

“We notice that we’re lowering our immunity and creating superbugs — bugs that are resistant to [these chemicals] — so we’re creating more problems for bacterial infections and lessening the ability to combat them with antibiotic therapy.” [1]

While many dentists say that the amount of triclosan found in toothpaste is so minimal that there’s no way it isn’t safe, others, such as Dr. Maples, recommend not using it if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

Along the same line as Maples, many dentists are becoming worried that too many “germ fighting” agents in our everyday lives will heighten the risk of germ-resistant bacteria mutating and becoming more difficult to control.

Rolf Halden, a director for environmental security at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, states that he finds it inconsistent to ban the chemical in soap but allow it in toothpaste. According to Halden, only a small amount of the chemical is absorbed if you wash your hands with it. However, when you use it in your mouth, it can be absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream.

Triclosan has been used in Colgate Total since 1997; and Thomas DiPiazza, a spokesperson for the company, states that scientific evidence gained over the past 25 years doesn’t show any issue with its safety. [2]

Independent research suggests that DiPiazza is correct, at least when triclosan is combined with fluoride.

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews showed that toothpaste that combined triclosan and fluoride performed better than those that only contained fluoride. Patients who used the combination toothpastes experienced 5% fewer cavities, reduced plaque by 41%, and reduced gum inflammation by 22% and gum bleeding by 48%.

Different dentists, not surprisingly, have different opinions on whether patients should be using toothpaste with the chemical.

Dr. Maples recommends that her patients switch to Crest Original, even though it may not be as “fancy” as Colgate Total.

Dr. Richard Niederman, a dentist and the chairman of the Department of Epidemiology and Health Promotion at the New York University College of Dentistry, says that he won’t recommend his patients discontinue use of Colgate Total. He states, however, that if they are concerned, they can switch to a toothpaste that contains stannous fluoride, which is also effective in the fight against plaque and gingivitis. [2]


[1] Yahoo! Beauty

[2] New York Times – Article image sourced and slightly modified from: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times