Just a few years ago, microbeads (a.k.a. Polyethylene plastic beads) popped up on the personal care product scene. You likely noticed them appearing in face scrubs, body washes and various brands of toothpaste. It was advertised that the microbeads would make your breath extra fresh and minty. But, the truth is, there's no need to have plastic in our toothpaste and those little beads can cause some big problems.
Microbeads do not disintegrate and are not biodegradable, so there's concern that they get stuck in the tiny crevices between the teeth and gums. They could then trap bacteria in the gums, leading to gingivitis. Over time, that infection could move from the gums into the bone that holds your teeth, causing periodontal disease. So, you can see how a little bead could cause major dental issues.
In addition to causing potential harm to your health, microbeads are also bad for the environment. This article from Care2 says, "One of the problems with microbeads is that their size allows them to pass through filtration systems intended to trap debris and pollutants we don’t want being released into the environment. Whether people are taking showers or brushing their teeth over the sink, the wastewater passes through processing facilities and the microbeads are flushed out right along with the clean water when it’s released into waterways. From there, they wind their way into the bodies of small aquatic animals, and a process known as biomagnification begins. As bigger and bigger animals eat animals contaminated with microbeads, the plastic chunks become more concentrated, and they leap to land as larger mammals consume animals like big fish."
Last year, dentists across the nation spoke up about their concern with microbeads. As a result, manufacturers are already phasing the beads out of their toothpastes. This is a great lesson for us all in being educated consumers and thinking about the impact that products can have on our health and the environment.