A Dentist’s Opinion about Gluten-Free Toothpaste

Author: Anna Pelak
Anna Pelak

Anna Pelak

Dr. Anna Pelak has been a practicing dentist in the Chicago suburbs of Palatine, IL and Yorkville, IL for over twenty years. She is a Graduate of Loyola University’s Chicago College of Dental Surgery, and is also the recipient of certificates of completion, and acceptance, from many other organizations and schools including, but not limited to, the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, the Reconstructive Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Rehabilitation, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the American Academy of Periodontology, and the American Society of Osseointegrated Implants. Dr. Pelak has been at the forefront of Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry for years and is dedicated to improving quality of life through better oral health. Dr. Pelak can be reached at either of her dental practice offices at Total Dentistry in Palatine, IL at (847) 358-2477 or in Yorkville, IL at (630) 553-8664 and online at www.totaldentistry.org
02.20.15 / 11:00 am

In America today, there is a growing propensity for consumers to gravitate toward gluten-free alternatives in almost everything they might buy. Is it important, or even beneficial for everyone to switch to a gluten-free existence?

Other than medically, it’s been said that a gluten-free diet may help you to slim down, clear up troublesome skin problems, or even increase your energy levels. Recent reports might suggest that is not the case. The gluten-free lifestyle has gained popularity over the last few years on the heels of recent advances in treatment of celiac disease, and while it is a very effective method of managing celiac disease, it has become a trend for New Age foodies to latch onto. How many times have you heard the words, “oh, I’m gluten-free now” and had to change your plans last minute to accommodate your friends or family?

Is a gluten-free diet really a diet?

Gluten-free lifestyle writer Celia Kaye wrote recently about this very topic saying, “The treatment for a celiac diagnosis is a lifelong gluten-free diet. But ‘diet’ in that case isn’t what we think of when we usually think of going on a diet.”

With so many gluten-free alternatives flooding the market today, presenting themselves as a healthier alternative to their gluten-containing counterparts, it is important to remember that a gluten-free cupcake is still a cupcake. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines diet as: “a. food and drink regularly provided or consumed; b. habitual nourishment; c. the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason; and d. a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one’s weight.

In the case of a gluten-free diet, the term is used in reference to the third definition. Gluten-free does not mean fewer calories. As a matter of fact, if you do suffer from gluten intolerance, and begin a gluten-free diet, you may actually gain weight over time. As a result of gluten intolerance, many people cause damage to their intestines, making it difficult to process foods and absorb nutrients properly. Meaning that once you’ve cut gluten out of your life, as a sufferer of celiac disease, you may actually begin to see healthy weight gain. A problem shared by celiacs and non-celiacs alike, weight gain can become an issue because of what has been used in place of gluten in the gluten-free versions of your favorite foods.

 

Gluten Free 1

 

What is the difference between toothpastes and their gluten-free alternatives?

Honestly, not a lot. Both will contain the same basic active ingredients: Xylitol, which helps to prevent cavities and promote saliva production, aiding in combatting oral health problems associated with dry mouth; Baking soda, which is primarily used as an abrasive additive that helps to remove stains, and neutralize acids; and calcium phosphate, which combats tartar buildup, and helps to rebuild enamel and replenish minerals that your teeth may be lacking in. The only real difference you’ll find is the thickening agent.

In traditional toothpastes, these are generally corn- or other grain-based starches that can cause problems for those who suffer from celiac disease. The new alternatives utilize cellulose gum based thickening agents. Cellulose gum is the common vernacular for carboxymethylcellulose or CMC, which is derived from the cell walls of woody plants, generally trees or cotton.

 

Gluten Free 2

 

CMC manufacturers use a vinegar based acid to break down the plant cells and form a viscous gum that not only functions as a thickening agent, but also works as an emulsifier, and stops sugars from crystalizing. One drawback to using CMC, or cellulose gum, is that it is also indigestible to humans.    Currently the FDA states, “caution should be exercised when using CMC, because larger quantities may cause a laxative effect” and it should also be noted that often when a product contains CMC, the dietary fiber count may be skewed, as manufacturers generally include the CMC fibers into the count, but those fibers are indigestible filler, that will simply pass through you adding no nutritional value at all.

Is gluten-free toothpaste your best option?

Unless you are a sufferer of gluten intolerance, it might not be. With generally higher price points, there is no reason to spend the extra money on cellulose gum based alternatives, when a regular xylitol, baking soda, and calcium phosphate based toothpaste with a gluten based thickening agent, will do the same work without the extra cost. If you are a sufferer of gluten intolerance, you’re in luck.

With many brand name leaders, Like Colgate® and Tom’s® offering gluten-free alternatives to their toothpastes, on the shelf next to their gluten based counterparts, it is easier than ever to maintain a gluten-free oral health regimen. Most toothpaste manufacturers have information on their gluten-free alternatives posted on their websites, or toll-free numbers on their products with a knowledgeable staff ready to answer your questions and make it easy for you to do the research and decide which gluten-free brand is right for you.

Anna Pelak

Anna Pelak

Dr. Anna Pelak has been a practicing dentist in the Chicago suburbs of Palatine, IL and Yorkville, IL for over twenty years. She is a Graduate of Loyola University’s Chicago College of Dental Surgery, and is also the recipient of certificates of completion, and acceptance, from many other organizations and schools including, but not limited to, the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, the International Congress of Oral Implantologists, the Reconstructive Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Rehabilitation, the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the American Academy of Periodontology, and the American Society of Osseointegrated Implants. Dr. Pelak has been at the forefront of Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry for years and is dedicated to improving quality of life through better oral health. Dr. Pelak can be reached at either of her dental practice offices at Total Dentistry in Palatine, IL at (847) 358-2477 or in Yorkville, IL at (630) 553-8664 and online at www.totaldentistry.org

12 responses to “A Dentist’s Opinion about Gluten-Free Toothpaste”

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  4. […] A Dentist’s Opinion about Gluten-Free Toothpaste Despite being one the most popular diet trends on the market, a gluten-free lifestyle isn’t as effective as one may think, especially when it comes to toothpaste. Experts agree that unless you are gluten-intolerant, there is no reason to spend extra money on cellulose gum-based alternatives. A regular xylitol, baking soda and calcium phosphate based toothpaste with a gluten based thickening agent will do the same work without the extra cost and hassle of using a gluten-free toothpaste. […]

  5. I often deal with patients who are chasing after the latest fads. It’s a by-product of living and working in image and health conscious Beverly Hills. I generally tell my patients unless they have a specific allergy or other health concern, that they will not reap any benefit from a gluten-free alternative or something like oil pulling. Tried and true things are often best, and chasing the latest fad can frequently lead to only pain down the line.

    I’ll be sure to advise my patients that if they do not have celiacs or another specific wheat/gluten allergy, that they do not need to worry about gluten in their toothpaste.

  6. Hello Dr. Pelak, Thank you for this informative article. Those of us who cannot tolerate gluten must watch everything we put in our mouths (even if we’re not supposed to swallow it). So yes, we need to worry a little about gluten in toothpaste. Fortunately, there’s an abundance of gluten-free toothpaste options available — in fact, the odds are good that the one you’re using right now is considered gluten-free to the generally accepted limit of 20 parts per million.

  7. Great article! I never actually thought much about gluten being in toothpaste. I wonder if people who are living the gluten-free lifestyle for reasons other than celiac disease consider the gluten in toothpaste as well.

  8. Thanks for sharing this information about gluten-free toothpaste, and whether it is worth it. I had no idea that the only difference is the thickening ingredient used to keep everything together. If that’s the case, then it seems like it would be a better idea to just get the normal toothpaste. However, if you have a gluten intolerance, like you said, then it would probably be a good idea to pick it up.

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