PVM/MA copolymer is a synthetic resin consisting of the monomers, polyvinyl methyl ether (PVM) and maleic anhydride (MA). It is a biodegradable bioadhesive that forms a film/barrier on oral surfaces.
Its function in toothpaste is to help retain toothpaste ingredients to the teeth and soft tissues in the mouth. What that does is help potentiate their topical effects by allowing the ingredients to stay in the mouth and work longer.
In regards to safety, no adverse effects from oral use have been observed and reported.
Table of contents:
What is PVM/MA copolymer?
PVM/MA copolymer is a bioadhesive composed of polyvinyl methyl ether and maleic anhydride monomers. Its adhesive property provides a multitude of use cases such as in oral care, cosmetics, and even pharmaceuticals.
Oral care products - toothpaste ingredient & denture adhesive.
Cosmetic products - hair sprays, mascara, etc.
Drug carrier for oral delivery of drugs.
What PVM/MA does in toothpaste
The purpose of having PVM/MA copolymer in toothpaste is to help retain toothpaste ingredients in the mouth (surfaces of teeth/gums/soft tissues). Studies have shown that the retention effect lasts for several hours after a single session of brushing.
Since the ingredients stay on the teeth and gums longer, they have more time to exert their effects and provide more benefits. The end result is an enhancement of the effects of various toothpaste ingredients. In other words by adding PVM/MA to a toothpaste, it increases the efficacy of ALL of the existing benefits that the toothpaste already provides.
The best way to think of this ingredient is as an exponentiator or multiplier of effects:
The copolymer itself doesn't provide any direct benefits.
It indirectly provides benefits by making all the other ingredients more effective.
How it works
Since PVM/MA is a bioadhesive, it forms an adhesive barrier over the surfaces of your teeth, gums, and soft tissue.
This sticky barrier traps toothpaste ingredients and holds them against the teeth, gums, and soft tissue. This allows them to continually provide benefits instead of being washed away by saliva, thus providing no benefits.
It is also biodegradable so it will break down over time in the mouth. As it degrades, it releases the trapped toothpaste ingredients. What this does is provide an extended release function, thus providing benefits over an extended period of time.
The two most notable benefits of adding PVM/MA copolymer to toothpaste is the increased uptake of fluoride and desensitizers to the teeth and soft tissues. That means the cavity preventative effects get enhanced and the teeth sensitivity will be reduced.
Enhanced fluoride effects
The existing benefits of sodium fluoride (NaF) and stannous fluoride (SnF2) will become enhanced since more fluoride will stay on the teeth and work longer.
Sodium fluoride benefits:
Inhibits bacterial activity
Stannous fluoride benefits:
Inhibits bacterial activity
Decreases teeth sensitivity
The way PVM/MA enhances all of these effects is by helping the fluoride adhere to the teeth and slowly release it over time. In comparison, a non-PVM/MA toothpaste will still have all of the above effects but just at a reduced rate. In other words, it just won't be as effective.
Increased desensitization efficacy
PVM/MA copolymer can help improve the desensitizing effect of sensitive toothpastes, especially those that use tubular occlusion agents.
Studies have shown that when combined with a silica-based toothpaste, 97.7% of exposed open dentinal tubules become occluded. That is in comparison to 13.3% of the control group.
Even after 16 hours of subsequent rinsing, the amount of occluded tubules was reduced to 88.5% vs 6.8% in the control group. In summary, it significantly increases the efficacy of desensitizers and it helps it last longer.
PVM/MA copolymer revolutionized toothpastes
Even without PVM/MA, toothpastes still provide wondrous benefits but with the addition of it, toothpastes have become even more effective. Its inclusion allows toothpastes to make bold claims such as repairing weakened enamel by locking in minerals.
This can be seen in the intensive enamel repair toothpaste by pronamel.
In case you were wondering how the toothpaste can lock in minerals to repair teeth, it is all due to the adhesive property of polyvinyl methyl ether and maleic anhydride.
Examples of toothpastes containing PVM/MA:
Sensodyne pronamel intensive enamel repair
Colgate total plaque pro release
In our opinion, this ingredient helps take the protective effects of toothpastes to the next level. We consider it innovative and revolutionary.
PVM/MA copolymer is considered relatively safe to use in toothpaste because no adverse effects have been observed nor reported during oral use.
Rats were fed with a stomach syringe with PVM/MA.
After 10 days, they were killed and their livers were removed.
No changes in liver and bodyweight were observed.
In case you weren't convinced, there were 15 studies conducted which had the copolymer in it and none of them found any adverse effects.
As you can see, all of the results found "no adverse effects on the oral soft and hard tissues." Therefore, our conclusion is that it is a relatively safe toothpaste ingredient to use.
Additional background information
Perhaps you'll find this interesting but initially the use of PVM/MA was in combination with triclosan in toothpaste. What it did was supercharge the effects of triclosan and made it super effective. However, in September 2016 triclosan was banned by the FDA due to safety risks. Triclosan was thus removed from oral care products but you know what remained? PVM/MA.
That is because this ingredient isn't inherently dangerous since it is just a bioadhesive that does not provide any effects on its own. Essentially it remained because it was safe to use for oral care products.
That's everything our dentists in Long Island City have to say about this toothpaste ingredient but FYI, it performs a very similar function to polyacrylic acid.