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Maker of Crest Pro-Health Mouthwash Faces Suit Over Teeth Staining

Aug 24, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

A Michigan attorney who claims his teeth were stained by Crest Pro-Health mouthwash has filed suit against Procter & Gamble.  The lawsuit, which seeks class action status, alleges that Procter & Gamble violated the Michigan Consumer Protection Act by not putting a warning regarding tooth discoloration on the Crest Pro-Health label.

Crest Pro-Health mouthwash was launched in 2005, and by 2008 52 million bottles of the rinse had been sold.  Unlike other mouthwash, Crest Pro-Health does not contain alcohol, making it a seemingly-perfect choice for people who cannot used alcohol-based products, including pregnant women, the elderly and diabetics.

But within a couple of years of its launch, some Crest Pro-Health users began to complain that it left brown stains and other ugly discolorations on their teeth. These reports also claimed that Crest Pro-Health stains could not be removed with brushing and flossing.  Some consumers have allegedly incurred big dental bills in an attempt to whiten their teeth, and sometimes dental treatments don't work.

The Michigan lawsuit claims that the plaintiff had "always taken exemplary care of his teeth". Before he had used 3/4 of a bottle of Crest Pro-Health, unsightly brown stains - not present before he began using the rinse - had appeared between his teeth.  The lawsuit claims Procter & Gamble does not warn about the Crest Pro-Health staining issue, and alleges that the company knows that if it did so, many people would not buy the product.   The lawsuit also alleges that Procter & Gamble had knowledge of the staining issue.

It does appear that Procter & Gamble and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) knew about the staining issue when Crest Pro-Health was being developed. According to a 2008 report in the Cincinnati Business Courier,  Procter & Gamble itself said that 3 percent of all Crest Pro-Health users will experience such staining. The article said that the FDA does not require a warning label because the stains are not considered harmful.

According to the Business Courier, Procter & Gamble claims that the stains are proof that Crest Pro-Health is working. As for the lack of warnings, a Procter & Gamble spokesperson told the Business Courier that the health benefits provided by Crest Pro-Health "outweigh a very small percentage of the population who would be affected by it."

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