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ABC 7 Chicago has unveiled a startling new trend that dentists are seeing in Canada and the U.S.: Microbeads -- tiny plastic beads that enhance the visual appeal of cleaning products -- are embedding themselves into the gums of patients.

REPORT: Plastic microbeads from toothpastes are getting stuck in people's gums


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 4:30 PM - ABC 7 Chicago has unveiled a startling new trend that dentists are seeing in Canada and the U.S.: Microbeads -- tiny plastic beads that enhance the visual appeal of cleaning products -- are embedding themselves into the gums of patients.

So far, there have been no reports of serious infections caused by the mircobeads, but health care professionals say there's still cause for concern.

ABC 7 Chicago spoke with Lule Jusufi, a local dentist who says that 20 percent of the patients  see sees have the embedded beads. Many can't feel them and have no idea they're even there.

The beads are made from polyethylene -- the same material used to make plastic water bottles -- and they're approved to be used in a wide range of personal care products in Canada and the U.S., including toothpaste.


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Industry officials say the beads are used to "enhance the visual appeal" of toothpastes and offer no health benefits.

One manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, told ABC that their products are "completely safe". Still, the company plans to phase out the use of plastic microbeads due to repeated requests from the public. 

Screengrab courtesy: ABC7 Eyewitness News

Screengrab courtesy: ABC7 Eyewitness News

Crest has also made plans to remove the microbeads from its products by 2016.

“Dental professionals will attest that enjoyable toothpastes generally promote longer brushing time and thus healthier outcomes,” Crest said via CTV.

“We do understand that preferences change, so we have begun removing microbeads from our toothpastes.”

Plastic microbeads began making headlines late last year, when the Great Lakes Plastic Pollution Survey revealed there are tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of plastic beads per square kilometre in the Great Lakes.

The big concern is that fish will eat the micro plastics and they will move up the food chain -- making their way into humans.

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