|Severe gingivitis - image from Aquafresh|
The biocide triclosan has been around for forty years. It kills bacteria very effectively and according to masses of research is very safe. So safe it has been used in numerous household products for decades. It has also been used in toothpaste as a preventative biocide for gingivitis, but there are concerns about persistence and its effects in the environment, so the pressure is on as far as regulators are concerned.
Now personally, I’m not keen on long term exposure to such chemicals unless the gains outweigh the risks which is so often difficult to establish. The problem for me is that the long-term effects of triclosan can only be tested by long-term use. I’m not sure I want to be a guinea pig.
Partly it’s an irrational response of course, because the benefits of triclosan may well outweigh the risks – certainly the research suggest so.
Anyhow, I’m not entirely unsympathetic to ongoing moves to remove triclosan from consumer products. What I’m not so keen on, for purely personal reasons, is the low profile way this is being done.
Suppose you suddenly find yourself suffering from persistent and troublesome gingivitis. It turns out to be caused by a change in the formulation of your regular toothpaste which you didn’t know about. After all, the toothpaste carton still displays reassuring claims about the effectiveness of the stuff.
This happened to me a few years ago until I noticed the sudden absence of triclosan from my preferred brand of toothpaste. There was no indication of any change on the pack. It was only by reading the list of ingredients (written in tiny, low contrast lettering) that I was able to link their dropping triclosan from the toothpaste formulation to my mild outbreak of bleeding gums.
Since then I’ve only checked this out on a very casual basis, but Colgate Total seems to be the only triclosan containing toothpaste left on UK supermarket shelves. Not a big issue, but read labels is my advice. There is a lot of product information available these days, but I suspect people don’t read it.
There is always the dentist of course. I resorted to a dentist in the end and now I'm using a toothpaste containing chlorhexidine costing about four times as much as my original, triclosan toothpaste. At least the gingivitis has gone though.
Read the pack.