Monday, 12 November 2012

Read the pack

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.


Weekend Yachtsman said...

I'm guessing this is another example of a cheap commodity product being removed from availability in favour of an expensive patented one, following intensive lobbying by (can you guess?) the makers of the expensive patented substitute.

You'd think by now even the EU would have seen through this trick, but I guess anything that helps their bansturbating agenda will be welcome.

Demetrius said...

Check out Chlorhexidine Anaphylaxis on Google Scholar. Also there have been some reported deaths recently in dentist's chairs. It can kill and does. If it hits you have 15 minutes to live.

A K Haart said...

WY - yes, triclosan is too cheap and generic so there must be something wrong with it.

Demetrius - I know there are reported issues with chlorhexidine and I suspect they are as significant as for triclosan. At my time of life I see it as a risk, but not a big one.

Sam Vega said...

I've just gone and checked mine (Sensodyne) and you are right. It definitely used to be in it, as my previous dentist (private practice) told me to not bother with anything that didn't have triclosan in it. When my current dentist (NHS) recommended Sensodyne I checked the ingredients and it was there. That was within the last four years, I think.

As you say, the annoying thing is the sneaky way this has been done. I suppose that if there was any hard evidence about triclosan then there would have been a massive fanfare about how caring the makers were to remove it.

A K Haart said...

Sam - my dentist recommends a chlorhexidine toothpaste and mouthwash - both called Curasept.

This has certainly cured the gingivitis - after some rather painful deep gum cleaning.

Demetrius said...

My sources include leading immunologists at Guys and Kings, Coroners and the Senior Medical Officer at the DOH. One them told me cheerfully, "We don't get many survivors with this one." The FDA issued a warning way back. The nore you use it the greater the risk. Added to this is the translation of risk to the compromised immune system into related chemicals for other reactions, notably skin problems and compromised medication, Triclosan is suggested as blocking some antibiotics. Some research has been done into associated Triclosan and Chlorhexidine vulnerability, I was there. Anyone using impregnated catheters is at risk. The worst feature is that if fatal it can leave no trace for subsequent post mortem according to one senior immunologist. One interesting piece of research found that Chlorhexidine together with Cetrimide (often in toothpastes) led to full scale cirrhosis of the liver in rats. I have been with consultants in other specialities who will not touch it, including one who already had significant reactions. Islay malt whisky is a reliable alternative for gum problems but that does not come on prescription but needs to be taken with great care.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - I've tried whisky, which does work, but not for long. I don't expect to have my teeth for much longer and at least chlorhexidine keeps the problem at bay while they drop out.

James Higham said...

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.

Beginning to worry about this now. Additives, additives.

A K Haart said...

James - yes, they bother me a little.