Antibacterial hand soaps recently made national news as the FDA banned a number of substances from their composition. On this list is triclosan, a controversial antibacterial that has been noted in a number of health concerns. While blanket banned in Europe, triclosan is still used in millions of American products available today, including toothpaste. In this article, we will discuss why triclosan is still used in oral health products, and if you should be concerned.
Triclosan provides its antimicrobial action by preventing bacteria and fungi from making new cell membranes. Without new membranes, the bacteria cannot repair or reproduce themselves. While triclosan does not affect our own ability to make cell walls, the FDA banned it from consumer soaps due to concerns of breeding bacterial immunity and "lack of efficacy." In other words, overusing triclosan isn't making humanity healthier OR helping keep bacteria superbugs at bay.
In toothpastes, triclosan is used to fight plaque and gingivitis by killing bacteria similarly to how it worked in hand soaps. The FDA continues to approve its use (in small doses) as research has proved its effectiveness in improving oral health. It is usually found in products like Colgate Total and other toothpastes with "antigingivitis" properties.
Do you need to use a toothpaste with triclosan? Should you be worried if your brand contains triclosan? It's really a matter of preference. To be effective, toothpastes really only need a single active ingredient- fluoride. All other chemicals- antiplaques, desensitizers, baking soda, etc.- may help certain patients but are not universally beneficial as part of daily oral care. Some individuals may see a decline in plaque and inflammation by using a toothpaste with triclosan. However, the best way to eliminate plaque is by mechanical disruption- regular, daily flossing.
In short, there is no reason to panic if you're using a toothpaste that contains triclosan. However, if the recent changes in FDA regulations have made you weary, feel free to switch brands. Many all-natural offerings like Toms of Maine Cavity Protection Toothpaste are organic, antibacterial free and contain an therapeutic dose of fluoride. If you would like more help in picking out toothpaste, floss, or mouth rinses, please give our office a call!