It’s a name you may have heard in the news before, but you might not remember why: Triclosan. A popular ingredient in some antibacterial toothpastes, Triclosan made headlines in recent years when its safety to ingest was called into question. After studies deemed the ingredient safe for teeth and consumption, the buzz over the controversial ingredient died down – at least for a while. Now it’s back in the news, and it may not be for positive reasons.
Dr. Raul Garcia of Miami, Florida, says the controversy has to do with bone health.
“Triclosan is effective at killing oral bacteria and protecting your teeth and gums from bacterial infection, but it is now being discovered that this ingredient is not so great for your bones,” he says.
Over the years, Triclosan has been used in everything from hand sanitizer to soaps and even credit cards. In recent years, however, the ingredient has been banned from many products, including hand sanitizer and antibacterial soaps and body washes, but was still deemed OK for oral health care products. Now that may all be changing, due to the findings in a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
“The study found that many people have high levels of Triclosan in their urine – and women with high concentrations of Triclosan have lower-than-average bone density,” Garcia says.
In fact, these women not only had lower bone density, but they also had higher rates of osteoporosis than those with lower rates of Triclosan in their urine.
So, could the Triclosan be causing the lower bone density, or is it a coincidence? According to the study, the lowest bone density occurred in post-menopausal women, an age group that is at a higher risk for lower bone density and osteoporosis.
“Could this be a coincidence? Perhaps, but given the high concentrations of Triclosan found in urine, it’s not a stretch to connect the drug to the low bone density,” says Garcia.
The next step will likely be the involvement of the FDA calling upon manufacturers to determine if Triclosan is safe for the bones, and what, if any, benefits it has in oral health products. Experts do not think it will yield enough benefits to remain an ingredient in oral care products for much longer, and dentists like Garcia expect it to be banned from these products in coming months.
“Triclosan is beneficial in keeping the teeth and gums healthy, but we expect that it will be banned soon,” he says.
If you are concerned about the use of Triclosan in your oral health products, Garcia suggests speaking to your dentist for product recommendations or searching the ingredients of your toothpaste and switching brands to one that does not contain Triclosan.