Dental hygienist's discovery has Crest toothpaste changing

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When a Phoenix dental hygienist spotted something strange in the mouths of her patients, she spoke up. And now the toothpaste manufacture is taking action. (WPVI)

When a Phoenix dental hygienist spotted something strange in the mouths of her patients, she spoke up. A toothpaste manufacture heard her and is now taking action.

Trish Walraven has seen a lot of things in a lot of mouths, but until a few years ago, she'd never seen anything like this.

"I didn't have any clue what is was," she told KNXV in Phoenix.

Little blue dots were trapped in the tiny spaces between patients' teeth and gums.

"We thought it was a cleaning product or something that people were chewing," said Walraven.

When Walraven starting asking around, she learned other hygienists were seeing it too. It took a while, but they finally figured out what it was.

"Polyethylene," said Walraven.

Polyethylene is a plastic used in all kinds of things, ranging from garbage containers to grocery bags and even bullet-proof vests. Walraven says one brand -- Crest -- appears to use the plastic microbeads more than others.

A Phoenix-area dentist says the microbeads shouldn't be in your toothpaste.

"They'll trap bacteria in the gums, which leads to gingivitis, and over time, that infection moves from the gum into the bone that holds your teeth and that becomes periodontal disease," said Dr. Justin Phillip. "Periodontal disease is scary."

Walraven wrote a blog about the microbeads that caught the attention of Proctor and Gamble. They released a statement to KNXV, which read, "While the ingredient in question is completely safe, we understand there is a growing preference for us to remove the ingredient. So we will."

Crest says the majority of its toothpaste will be microbead-free in six months. They'll be completely gone by March of 2016.

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