Fact Check

Crest 3D White Toothpaste

Consumer concerns about Crest 3D White brands of toothpaste embedding plastic balls in users' gums will soon be moot.

Published April 7, 2014



Claim:   Crest 3D White brands of toothpaste can embed plastic balls in users' gums.


Example:   [Collected via Facebook, April 2014]

Anybody use this toothpaste? If so, THROW IT AWAY! I went to the dentist today to have my teeth cleaned and during my cleaning I was asked if I use Crest 3D whitening. I said I did and asked how she could tell. Apparently, dentist are finding the little blue balls in the toothpaste stuck in patience gums! I can vouch she found 4 stuck in my gums, all of which she was able to remove and I saw with my own eyes. However, I googled it and there are pictures showing someone who had numerous ones that were actually embedded in their gums! The capsules are made of plastic so they don't bust like you would think (as hand sanitizer does). They really serve no purpose.. Do they think they exfoliate the teeth? Don't get it ... no thank you, I will switch back to my Crest Tarter Protection in the Fresh mint gel ... and it's cheaper!


Origins:   The Crest 3D White tooth whitening line is a collection of Crest brand oral care products (encompassing toothpaste, toothbrushes, rinse, and whitestrips) advertised as producing whiter teeth and a "whiter smile":

New Crest 3D White is a collection of products that work together to give you a brighter smile — plus the health benefits you expect from Crest and Oral-B. Each product in the 3D White collection works uniquely to give you a stand out smile.

Incorporate the entire 3D White collection into your daily routine for a standout smile all year long. Every time you flash your brilliant 3D White smile, you'll stand out. Heads will turn, and you���¢��������ll leave an unforgettable impression.

Crest and Oral-B offer the transformative power of a 3D White smile to people everywhere, without the confusion or trade-offs of other whitening products available today, and with the health benefits you expect from Crest and Oral-B.

In March 2014, Facebook posts began appearing warning consumers away from Crest 3D White brands of toothpaste, accompanied by a picture of the "Arctic Fresh" variety, because the

product supposedly contains blue plastic capsules that "dentists are finding stuck in patience [sic] gums." This warning could reference any one of a number of

entries in the line of Crest products aside from Crest 3D White "Arctic Fresh" toothpaste, such as Crest 3D White "Vivid" toothpaste or Crest Complete Extreme Herbal Mint toothpaste, which contain hydrated silica, a sand-like substance that serves as an abrasive to exfoliate the teeth of food and other particles, and/or polyethylene (known as microbeads), which according to Crest is "a safe, inactive ingredient used to provide color" that gives a product the appearance of containing small beads or flecks:

As the Los Angeles Times observed in a 2011 survey of whitening toothpastes, Crest 3D White Vivid ranked as one of the most abrasive such toothpastes on the market:

Crest offers 3D White Vivid and 3D White Advanced Vivid. Both varieties contain hydrated silica as an abrasive. The advanced version, which comes out of the tube in two separate chambers, also has sodium hexametaphosphate, a compound that helps loosen the stains so the abrasives can do their job.

Crest White Vivid ranked 17th in terms of cleaning but was the fourth-most abrasive. Anything with an RDA (relative dentin abrasion) score above 100 is generally considered highly abrasive, and anything above 150 is considered potentially damaging to enamel. Crest White Vivid scored above 200.

Since 2010, Crest 3D White Vivid has also been the subject of negative reviews from consumers who have reported pain, irritation, and discomfort after using it, with a number of online reviewers specifically mentioning having found blue crystals lodged under their gums (some of which required dental treatment to remove):

One day I noticed a strange dark spot on my gums above both of my two front teeth. This was fairly sudden, and it was noticeable. After my husband pointed it out to me a few days later I decided to inspect further. When gently picking underneath my gums with a toothpick, I found SEVERAL of these little blue crystals lodged far up into my gums. Not only was this rather disturbing (and gross), but I'm sure that over time this would absolutely become harmful to my teeth or gums. I have used this toothpaste for over a year now, but needless to say, after my discovery I immediately discontinued using it.


Immediately upon using this toothpaste the act of brushing pushed the blue crystals under my gums. I am trying to massage them out — flossing only pushes them higher. If I can't get them out on my own — will try a toothpick next — will have to go to the dentist and see if he can get them out. I threw out an almost new container out today.


After using this for a few weeks, I started noticing little dark spots on a my gums in a few places. I was concerned so I went to the dentist. Turns out the little blue crystal beads from the toothpaste had gotten lodged under my gums in a few places! He was able to get them all out (some took work and others came out easily — overall not a fun experience). He advised me to throw the toothpaste out immediately and said if they had remained there, they could have caused an infection and possibly chronic Gingivitis.


Dental hygienist Trish Walraven also wrote on the DentalBuzz web site that:

I've been seeing these blue particles flush out of patients' gums for several months now. So has the co-hygienist in our office. So have many dental hygienists throughout the United States and Canada who have consulted with each other and realized that we have a major concern on our hands.

I am not saying that polyethylene is causing gum problems. I'd be jumping too soon to that conclusion without scientific proof. But what I am saying definitively is that plastic is in your toothpaste, and that some of it is left behind even after you're finished brushing and rinsing with it.

Procter & Gamble (the corporate parent of the Crest brand) asserted, in response to our inquiry, that their use of polyethylene (PE) in Crest brand toothpaste was harmless and that they would not be adding the substance to any new brands:

The colored polyethylene (PE) specks used in our oral care products are safe, FDA approved food additives. They are used in chewing gums and are commonly used in toothpastes.

P&G and other toothpaste manufacturers use limited amounts of small colored polyethylene specs in some toothpastes. Polyethylene beads are commonly used as scrub beads (e.g., in exfoliating products) but are also sometimes used to give color, like in chewing gum and toothpaste.

There is no evidence from clinical studies or from on-going monitoring to indicate that these particles persist underneath the gumline or cause harm. We've already begun the process of identifying alternatives for use in our toothpaste and the PE specks will be replaced as soon as alternatives are qualified. In addition, we have decided not to introduce microplastic beads into any new product category.

The same products have also been the subject of a large number of positive reviews from users who have found them to be effective tooth whiteners and reported no significant problems or discomfort from using them. At this point we don't have any hard data (other than anecdote) about what proportion of Crest 3D White Vivid purchasers (or other similar toothpastes) have encountered issues with flakes becoming lodged in their gums, how serious an oral hygiene problem this phenomenon might pose, and whether the issue is an inherent drawback with these types of toothpaste or something that affects only a small percentage of users. As some dentists have noted, abrasive toothpastes such as Crest 3D White Vivid can cause discomfort and pain in users with sensitive teeth:

There's no doubt that whitening toothpastes can clean stains off teeth and give them a little extra gleam. But the term "whitening" is misleading, says Dr. Vincent Mayher, a Haddonfield, N.J., dentist and the past president of the Academy of General Dentistry. Unlike trays and strips that can bleach deep within a tooth, he explains, toothpastes can reach only the surface. Besides, he adds, bleaches in toothpastes are useless because they'll get rinsed away before they do anything.

Still, getting rid of surface stains can really brighten a smile, and Mayher says whitening toothpastes can be worth a try as long as a user doesn't expect miracles. If a person has his or her teeth bleached, whitening toothpastes can help keep the teeth from turning yellow again, he adds.

But Mayher also warns of potential problems. Over time, he says, an abrasive toothpaste could wear away the outer layer of enamel on a tooth, exposing the yellowish dentin beneath. "You could actually end up making your teeth look less white." Plus, the abrasives in whitening toothpastes can be painful for some people, so those with sensitive teeth should be careful, he adds.

In August 2014 Crest announced that even though microbeads are "completely safe," they would be phasing out their use, and all Crest products would be microbead-free by March 2016:

Q: What are Microbeads?

A: Microbeads, also known as polyethylene, are commonly used as scrubbing beads in exfoliating products and are also used to impart color, like in chewing gum and toothpaste.

Q: Is it Safe?

A: Yes. The polyethylene microbeads used in Oral Care applications are safe. Polyethylene is an FDA-approved food additive. Years of clinical research show no evidence of particles persisting underneath the gumline or causing harm. The microbeads are an inactive ingredient and not associated with any health risk.

As affirmed by the American Dental Association, clinically relevant dental health studies do not indicate that the ADA Seal should be removed from toothpastes that contain polyethylene microbeads. Products with the ADA Seal have been independently evaluated for safety and effectiveness by the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.

Q: Why are Microbeads in the toothpaste in the first place?

A: We included these beads in some of Crest���¢��������s toothpastes based on the positive feedback from people who use our products. Dental professionals will attest that enjoyable toothpastes generally promote longer brushing time and thus healthier outcomes. We do understand that preferences change, so we have begun removing microbeads from our toothpastes, and the majority of our product volume will be microbead-free by March 2015. We will complete our removal process and all Crest products will be microbead-free by March 2016. We currently have products without microbeads for those who would prefer them immediately.

Q: Are Microbeads in All Crest Toothpastes?

No. Today, some of our most popular products do not contain microbeads including Crest Whitening + Scope, Crest Baking Soda Peroxide, Crest Extra Whitening, Crest Cavity, and Crest Tartar + Whitening. In those that do, we have begun removing them. In fact, the majority of our product volume will be microbead-free by March 2015. We will complete our removal process by March of 2016, well ahead of any state legislation targets.

Q: Why are you removing it from toothpaste?

A: While the ingredient in question is completely safe, approved for use in foods by the FDA and part of an enjoyable brushing experience for millions of consumers with no issues, we understand there is a growing preference for us to remove this ingredient. So we will. Crest will continue to provide consumers with effective and enjoyable products which are designed to their preferences.

As well, a federal law passed at the end of 2015 requires personal and beauty care product manufacturers to begin eliminating microbeads from their products by 2017.

Additional information:

    Crest Toothpaste Embeds Plastic in Our Gums Crest Toothpaste Embeds Plastic in Our Gums   (DentalBuzz)

Last updated:   1 January 2015


    Woolston, Chris.   "Are Whitening Toothpastes a Bright Idea?"

    Los Angeles Times.   4 July 2011.

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