Lawyer sues P&G over mouthwash stains

By Kathy Kincade, Editor in Chief

August 10, 2009 -- A Michigan lawyer has filed a class-action lawsuit against Procter & Gamble (P&G), claiming the company's Crest Pro-Health mouthwash is responsible for brown stains that developed on his teeth after he used most of a bottle.

Mark Rossman, an attorney who practices in Troy, MI, and his partners Gerard Mantese and David Hansma filed the lawsuit in a federal court August 6.

“Any mouthwash that is effective at killing plaque and gingivitis could cause some degree of tooth stain. ...”
— Laura Brinker, P&G spokesperson

"Plaintiff, who has always taken exemplary care of his teeth, commenced using Crest Pro-Health as part of his oral hygiene routine, and, before the bottle of mouthwash was three-quarters used, unsightly brown stains appeared in between Plaintiff's teeth," the lawsuit states. "These stains had not existed before Plaintiff used Crest Pro-Health mouthwash."

The complaint accuses P&G of violating the Michigan Consumer Protection Act by not putting a warning label on the mouthwash, alerting consumers to the potential for staining.

While P&G acknowledges that the active ingredient in Crest Pro-Health -- cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) -- can lead to tooth discoloration in some individuals, "it is a very complex matter because the way stains develop on teeth is attributed to lifestyle factors, biology, and oral care habits," Laura Brinker, a P&G spokesperson who specializes in the Crest brand, told "In fact, any mouthwash that is effective at killing plaque and gingivitis could cause some degree of tooth stain even if it doesn't have CPC."

The company's Web site echoes Brinker's comments:

Like all mouthwashes that effectively fight plaque and gingivitis, Crest Pro-Health Rinse can contribute to temporary, surface-level brown tooth discoloration, which is reported by a small percentage of individuals. ... Tooth discoloration could be exaggerated by many other factors, such as existing tartar on teeth; consumption of colored beverages like coffee, tea, and red wine; or tobacco use.

In fact, Brinker said, the brown stains could be a sign that the mouthwash is working for some people.

"CPC combines with the bacteria to kill the germs, and the dead bacteria can collect in certain areas of the teeth that are harder to brush and thus appear as brown stains," she said. "But it is a preventable and reversible issue for people who are taking regular care of their teeth with tartar control toothpaste, a power toothbrush, flossing, and visiting their dentist regularly."

Rossman told the Associated Press that, despite repeated flossing and brushing, he has so far been unable to remove the stains.

"I have a pretty good toothbrush," he told the AP. "Nothing seems to work."

While P&G has received inquiries from consumers about the possibility of tooth discoloration, "when you look at the number of people and households who have bought our products, 99.9% have not expressed this concern to us," Brinker said. "Since Crest Pro-Health Rinse launched in April 2005, we have seen that we have a high number of consumer testimonials, high repeat rate of buyers, and growing dental professional recommendations."

Another Crest Pro-Health product, Enamel Shield toothpaste, does carry a warning that its active ingredient -- stannous fluoride -- may cause surface staining of teeth, according to a recent article in the Miami Herald.

Rossman's complaint is being filed "on behalf of Plaintiff and all other consumers in the state of Michigan who have purchased or used Crest Pro-Health mouthwash and have suffered tooth staining." It seeks damages, attorneys' fees, injunctive relief, and a jury trial.

Copyright © 2009

Mouth rinse causes stains?
Crest's Pro-Health Rinse is a popular alternative to alcohol-based products. But is the rinse staining some peoples' teeth?

Last Updated np 8/11/2009 12:16:18 PM

4 comments so far ...
8/10/2009 1:18:12 PM
Another Shylock looking for some deep pockets.  Maybe they should pay him off with the agreement he no longer practice law. One less lawyer is a good first step.
Maybe they should ask him if he ever drank coffee, tea, colas or ate staining foods  like cherries or blueberries.  Gee, maybe it's not the chemical in the rinse but poor home care.  I bet I can find globs of plaque in that clown's mouth.

8/10/2009 2:00:19 PM
Kevin D. Huff, DDS, MAGD
Although I am not sure whether or not a class action lawsuit is appropriate, I concur that there is a problem with staining. I gave samples of Crest ProHealth toothpastes and mouthwash, which I purchased, for approximately 2 years to my patients. I had at least 50 patients complain about staining of their teeth. The external, brown/yellow stain could be removed with difficulty during a professional prophylaxis. Most of these patients have been long-standing regular recare patients with relatively good oral hygiene habit. A few of them were smokers. However, this staining is much different than we have observed with nicotine, which is more dark brown in nature. My wife and I, who have excellent hygiene habits, also developed significant staining from these products within 2 months of using them.

I spoke with the representatives from P&G at the Ohio Dental Association Annual Session in 2008 about this and was passed off. I then called P&G's helpline listed on the toothpaste tube. I was directed to a non-dentist researcher who told me that this was a "very rare occurrence" and that they could not "understand why you are having this problem with your patients."

We no longer recommend Crest ProHealth products, but we keep receiving boxes of samples which make it directly into the dumpster.

8/12/2009 4:21:21 PM
Oregon EFDA gal
I'm a dental assistant and have a co-worker who is fastidious about her oral care (floss 2x day,brush 3x day)and used Pro Health Rinse. She experienced that above mentioned staining and was totally disenchanted with the line when she realised what it was doing to the colour of her teeth. When she stopped use of it, the staining was dramatically lessened, and yes, the stain was interproximal. As the Lead Assistant, I stopped providing that rinse to our patients and changed to another type. P & G needn't think this is an isolated incident- other patients told me they experienced it too. Shame they can't just put a warning on the package and those that are happy users can continue,others can try it forewarned... 

8/12/2009 7:46:32 PM
I have been recommending P&G pro health for the past two years and have only have one patient that experienced the stain mentioned.  After talking with my sales rep, I recommended the patient brush first before rinsing, which have eliminated the stain. Being that the antimicrobial agents stain the plaque this would make perfect sense.  As for the toothpaste, I have not gotten one patient that has experienced increased staining.  Those that ususally have stain are those that have always had a great deal of stain.