Why Colgate “Total” Toothpaste is Still #1, Despite the FDA’s Ban on Triclosan

This is very interesting.

From the NY Times, Sept. 7, 2016:

In September 2016, the Food and Drug Administration banned the antibacterial chemical, triclosan, from soaps. But they allowed it to remain in the #1 best-selling, general-purpose toothpaste, Colgate “Total”.

The FDA states that the benefits of triclosan in toothpaste outweigh any risks.


So, the FDA bans triclosan for hand washing, but says it’s okay to use it in your mouth.

That’s weird, I know, but there is more to the story, and it partly involves the Cochrane Collaboration – a group of geeks who do research on research. Pay attention to the word “copolymer”, and see below for my analysis of today’s subject.

Excerpt from the Cochrane Collaboration, Dec. 5, 2013:

Vast healthcare resources are used worldwide to treat gum disease and tooth decay, which are both preventable. Currently there is a lot of ongoing research into possible links between periodontitis and other medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and premature birth of underweight babies.

Adding an effective and safe antibacterial ingredient to toothpastes could be an easy and low-cost answer to these medical conditions. Triclosan is an antibacterial agent with low toxicity, which, along with a copolymer for aiding retention, can be added to toothpastes to reduce plaque and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). It is thought that triclosan could fight the harmful bacteria in plaque while also reducing the swelling that leads to serious gum disease.


Riley P, Lamont T. Triclosan/copolymer containing toothpastes for oral health. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD010514. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010514.pub2


My analysis: It has little to do with triclosan.

Here is the real reason that Colgate “Total” is still the #1 general-use toothpaste:

The partially hidden clock.

It means that Colgate “Total” is:

  • Substantive (lasts in the mouth for 10-12 hours)
  • Time-release

And the secret to the clock is the copolymer for aiding product retention in the mouth.

The copolymer is the genius, effective additive that makes Colgate “Total” work. The triclosan is of minor importance. Because without the copolymer, neither triclosan nor any other similar antiseptic would make much difference.

That’s because without some means of intra-oral retention, everything that goes into the mouth tends to dilute, dissipate, dissolve, and disappear, unless it’s microbes. And even then, the microbes must be certain types, because many of our 100 billion per day oral microbes are just passing through.

In our first three years of life we acquire certain “resident strains” of microbes from our families, friends, pets, etc. These few strains tend to stick with us most of our lives unless we suffer major changes, such as illness, move to another country, chronic use of antibiotics or drugs, etc. After age three, most of the microbes we ingest may hang around a few days, weeks, or months. But as we age and create different relationships and intimacies, and become exposed to more environments, we acquire more and different microbes, many of which are pathogens. Some 20 billion germs per day of our total microbial exposures tend to make various grades of sticky, gooey dental plaque and can entrench themselves nearly permanently in our mouths. And the most entrenched ones tend to be the most pathogenic.

It turns out that for pathogenic microbes, their means of retention is to form the stickiest, gooiest, most resilient dental plaque in which to hide and replicate. Inside dental plaque, pathogenic microbes become about 1,000 times harder to kill than bacteria that happen to be floating around in saliva. Neither Colgate “Total”, nor harsh antiseptics, nor even antibiotics can penetrate the stickiest dental plaque 100%. That’s why we need to use advanced electric toothbrushes, floss, interdental irrigators, toothpicks, and dental scalings to harass these suckers. Even then we are not completely successful, because about 9 days after the most rigorous dental scaling and antimicrobial irrigation, it’s hard to tell that you have had a dental cleaning at all.

You see, the secret to success in the mouth is substantivity (adhesion) in order to withstand the effects of saliva, chewing, drinking, mouth activity, habits, vices, etc. If you are microbe that wants to stick around in the mouth a while, you must develop some means of adhesion – dental plaque. If you are Colgate, you develop electrostatically charged soluble copolymer blobs that look like microscopic little cotton balls.

These little copolymer blobs are embedded with triclosan molecules. The copolymer blobs adhere by static electricity to dental plaque and epithelial cells. Over a period of 10 – 12 hours, the copolymers slowly dissolve and unravel, thus releasing their caches of triclosan. It’s a genius method to create a long-lasting, time-release, dental delivery system that can withstand much of the daily oral activity. In some ways, I define toothpastes kind of like history: BC and AC : Before Colgate Total and After Colgate Total.

Various Methods of Substantivity:

1) Microbes

Plaque (biofilm) is the substantive method that has made dental pathogens such effective and dastardly destroyers of oral health for millions of years. If you are a microbe, your main secret to success in the mouth is to create dental plaque, and then live inside it.

2) Colgate “Total”

Copolymer is the substantive method that has made “Total” the #1 general use toothpaste since it came out in 1997.

Figure 1: Copolymer

Figure 2: Copolymer plus triclosan

Figure 3: Copolymer dissolving and releasing triclosan

3) RENUzORAL’s Orchestra® Dental Probiotics:

“Place and Forget” technology is the substantive method that will make Orchestra Dental Probiotics the most effective dental probiotics.

Orchestra Dental Probiotics to Fight Morning Breath and Improve Oral Health



Owner at RENUzORAL, LLC --
Owner at Steven J. Edwards, DDS Dental Corp, DBA Teeth for Life --
Inventor/Developer of Breathific Dental Probiotics
DDS Degree 1986 at University of Southern California --
BA Biology, 1981 at University of the Pacific --
AA Dental Laboratory Technology 1979 at Cuyahoga Community College

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