Jim Erpenbach DDS

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My toothpaste has WHAT in it?

The Food and Drug Administration ruled that beginning September 2017 that the sale of nonmedical-grade antibacterial soaps and sanitizers containing Triclosan and 19 other chemical ingredients would be banned. Triclosan is an ingredient that was introduced in 1969 as a pesticide but has been used in hospital settings. Triclosan is now found in a variety of household and personal care products - including toothpaste. Yes, toothpaste. The controversy surrounding this ingredient has spanned over 50 years and stems from concerns over its long-term impact on human health and the environment. Dr. James Erpenbach, D.D.S., often hears questions from patients concerned about the use of Triclosan.

So if Triclosan could be dangerous and has been banned by the FDA for soaps and sanitizers used by the general public, why is it still allowed to be used in other products? Products that are still allowed to contain Triclosan include kitchenware such as cutting boards and towels, deodorants, and toys.

Triclosan in toothpaste does not appear in the ban according to the FDA because research on its effects in toothpaste has been inconclusive. Also, studies have shown that it has as proven beneficial effect in reducing plaque and gum disease versus products that only contain fluoride. So for the FDA, the proven benefit outweighs any possible, unproven risk. However, recent studies have confirmed the link between Triclosan and tumors in rodents. The FDA does not consider the link in rodents to indicate a link in humans. Another consideration to think about when considering the use of toothpaste that contains Triclosan is that you are introducing an agent that indiscriminately wipes out bacteria – both good and bad. Good bacteria in your mouth aid in digestion, protect teeth and gums, and aid in protecting your overall health.

Other concerns about Triclosan include its impact on hormones, its pollution of the water supply and subsequent impact on wildlife, and its carcinogenic chemical makeup. Aside from these serious health concerns, Triclosan is not the top of the line antibacterial agent in use. The Centers for Disease Control recommend antibacterial cleansing agents should be able to kill microbes in 15 seconds or less. Triclosan takes four times as long – one full minute - to kill bacteria. This presents a problem, as many individuals don't wash their hands for an entire minute allowing the product to work properly, and thus increasing antibacterial resistance.

In May of this year, an antibiotic resistant bacterial superbug was found for the first time in the United States. As you can imagine, this is a major (and rather frightening) medical occurrence. Bacteria that become antibiotic resistant could have serious, if not fatal, consequences. Bacteria can mutate and become antibiotic and antibacterial resistant due to the overuse of antibacterial soaps and chemical cleaners like Triclosan.

If you are interested in limiting your exposure to Triclosan from oral health and dental care products, call Dr. Erpenbach at 865.584.8630 for a list of oral health products he recommends that are Triclosan-free.

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