What Is Triclosan and Why Is It in My Toothpaste?

In 2016, the Federal Drug Administration in the United States banned manufacturers from putting the antibacterial ingredient triclosan in soaps, and now Australian regulators are thinking of doing the same. Meanwhile, triclosan is often found in toothpaste, and there's no sign of manufacturers taking steps to remove it. Why is an ingredient that regulators think is too dangerous to regularly apply to your skin allowed to exist in a product you put in your mouth?

What Is Triclosan?

Triclosan is an ingredient that kills bacteria. Traditionally, manufacturers have added it to antibacterial soaps, anti-acne skincare products, toothpastes, cosmetics and even some types of clothing, toys and household items. The purpose of triclosan is to prevent bacteria from growing in the product or to kill bacteria that exist on your skin or in your mouth.

Is Triclosan Safe?

Some animal studies have shown that triclosan exposure can decrease thyroid function. Other studies are investigating a possible link between triclosan and skin cancer. However, it's not clear whether these studies are relevant to humans. Scientists also worry about the possibility that regularly using triclosan could lead to the development of super-bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics.

Why Is Triclosan Used in Toothpaste?

Many people are calling for triclosan to be removed from Australian soaps because there is no evidence that these antibacterial soaps provide any health benefit compared to regular soap. However, there are studies that show using a toothpaste with triclosan could reduce your risk of developing gingivitis, a condition that affects the gums. Toothpastes with triclosan also reduce dental plaque, which is a bacterial film that builds up on teeth between brushing sessions.

Is Triclosan Good or Bad for Dental Health?

Some dentists recommend using a toothpaste containing triclosan to lower levels of harmful bacteria in the mouth. However, others argue that simply brushing with regular toothpaste and flossing every day is enough to protect most people from gingivitis and cavities. Some dentists even worry that triclosan could kill beneficial oral bacteria, which may leave you more susceptible to dental diseases.

Should You Use Toothpaste With Triclosan?

If you are not sure if you should choose a toothpaste with triclosan, contact your family dental service for advice. If you have gingivitis, your dentist may recommend that you use an antibacterial toothpaste to tackle the oral bacteria that are attacking your gums. However, for many people, a toothpaste without triclosan gives plenty of protection against gum disease, as long as you brush regularly and don't forget to floss.