The controversy about triclosan-containing toothpaste continues. Some are concerned because evidence points to hormonal effects and even a potential cancer link with the antibacterial agent. Others point to the fact that the ingredient has never definitively been linked to these problems, but has been shown to have real benefits in terms of gum health.

Potential Harmful Effects of Triclosan

Triclosan has been linked to many potential health risks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in discussing triclosan contamination of waterways, says that the chemical is linked with:

  • Disruption of hormones
  • Impact on growth and reproduction
  • Chronic toxicity
  • Cancer

These effects have all been confirmed through animal studies. There is concern that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process didn’t adequately consider these effects. The FDA notes that animal studies do not always reveal the effects on humans. However, some effects on humans that have been confirmed show that the presence of triclosan in the system is linked with an increase in BMI. Having triclosan in one’s system is linked with a 0.9 point increase in BMI, and high triclosan levels are linked to a 1.5 point increase in BMI. Other recent studies show that triclosan negatively impacts the function of heart and skeletal muscles.

It’s very hard to know whether these effects are really being seen in humans. The longest studies on triclosan are only about three years in length, while triclosan-containing toothpastes have been on the market for 18 years. Cancer rates have increased in recent years, but it’s hard to know whether this is related to chemicals like triclosan or any of a number of other possible causes.

Benefits of Triclosan

Recently, the FDA challenged triclosan-containing soaps, saying that manufacturers had to prove that they were safe and effective for use. This is because there is no evidence that antibacterial soaps containing triclosan are actually helpful.

For toothpastes, though, the story is different. There is a great deal of evidence supporting the effectiveness of triclosan on the prevention of cavities and improving gum health. Most significantly, a Cochrane Review conducted in late 2013 and looking at 30 published studies found that triclosan significantly improved many aspects of oral health. The review found a 22% reduction in plaque, a 22% reduction in gingivitis, and a 48% reduction in bleeding gums. The impact on tooth decay was much more modest, only about 5%, and there was no evidence of effectiveness on periodontitis.

This leaves us a little in the dark still. Although reducing gingivitis and bleeding gums is likely to contribute to lower risk of receding gums, without evidence of effectiveness on the more severe form of gum disease, periodontitis, we can’t be sure.

It’s always important to be aware what ingredients are in your toothpaste, and how these might affect your oral and overall health.

If you have already suffered receding gums and are looking for nonsurgical gum rejuvenation, please call 310-275-5325 in Beverly Hills or (949) 551-5902 in Orange County.