Did you know there is often gluten in toothpaste? It’s because gluten is a nice, sticky protein that helps the toothpaste stay, well, a paste. Corn and grain-based starches have long been the best way to thicken and stabilize toothpaste. For most people, this is not a problem. However, we all ingest small amounts of toothpaste when we brush our teeth, so if you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance or are allergic to gluten, this can become an issue. Additionally, some toothpaste contains sorbitol-derived from grain or wheat.
How much of a Problem is it?
If you are on a gluten-free diet because it helps you keep your weight stable, then the tiny amounts of gluten you might ingest in toothpaste should not be a worry. If you are actually sensitive to gluten, though, it can be a real problem. Even a small amount of gluten can trigger the autoimmune reaction that causes celiac disease.
As celiac disease can also have a negative effect on oral health, you need to be able to clean your teeth without worrying about your toothpaste bringing on an attack. For others with milder gluten sensitivity, gluten-free toothpaste may be more about peace of mind than anything else – but peace of mind can be very important for all of us.
It’s worth noting that gluten-free toothpaste tends to be slightly more expensive, so if you are not that worried about gluten, then you might want to consider it. However, also worth noting is that fewer and fewer manufacturers are using gluten. It might be that things are changing price-wise and cellulose gum is becoming a cheaper filler. It’s still the case that extremely cheap toothpaste is likely to have gluten in them, though, whether deliberately or accidentally.
So, what should you do?
First of all, you’re lucky. Most major toothpaste manufacturers have stopped using gluten-based fillers in favor of cellulose-based gum, which is made out of things like wood and the parts of the cotton plant not used to make cotton. It’s made by using a form of vinegar. You can’t digest this gum, so if you swallow a lot of it it can have a laxative effect, but the small amounts you might swallow in toothpaste are not a concern. The brands listed below are all gluten-free. Additionally, you should make sure your dentist knows you are gluten-free, as some professional teeth cleaning pastes also contain gluten. Your dentist should be able to use a gluten-free alternative.
- Crest. Crest has stopped using gluten in any of their toothpaste.
- Colgate. Colgate also says that their toothpaste is gluten-free and that they make sure to take steps to avoid cross-contamination.
- Aquafresh. Per their website, they do not contain gluten as a direct ingredient, but unlike Colgate, they make no promises about cross contamination. If you are very sensitive, you may want to be careful.
- Desert Essence. Their toothpaste is gluten-free. However, they are also fluoride-free. Dentists do not recommend fluoride-free toothpaste unless you are sensitive or allergic to fluoride. No fluoride-free toothpaste is approved by the ADA.
- Jason Toothpaste. They are gluten-free and also certified kosher. It is important to note, very few toothpastes contain animal-based gelatin these days, which is the largest concern with kosher).
- Sensodyne. Same situation as Aquafresh. Their toothpaste is gluten-free, but they can’t promise there will be no cross contamination.
- Tom’s of Maine. All of their products are currently gluten-free.
- Arm & Hammer. They verify that their toothpaste is gluten-free.
- Biotene toothpaste. This is a toothpaste specifically for dry mouth, which is common amongst celiac sufferers and is also gluten-free.
- Tanner’s Tasty Paste. This child-oriented toothpaste company only offers gluten-free toothpaste, in flavors that might help improve compliance.
- Lebon toothpaste. Again, though, these are fluoride-free toothpaste and should be avoided unless fluoride makes you sick. They are also quite, quite expensive.
- Orajel baby and toddler formulations. However, they do not state that their child “level” toothpaste is gluten-free and their website does not give the full ingredients.
- Hello toothpaste. Hello does use xanthan gum, but states it is from a gluten-free source. They have strawberry and watermelon flavors.
As the biggest brands are gluten-free, the risk is often when you go with own brand or local toothpaste. The biggest place where gluten hides in toothpaste are in natural flavors or in wheat-based sorbitol. Thankfully, it has become a lot harder to find a toothpaste that actually contains gluten these days.
How do you tell if your toothpaste is gluten-free?
Other than if the brand says it is, there are a few things to look for on the ingredient list. The strongest indicator is the presence of cellulose gum on the ingredient list. As mentioned, cellulose gum is used as a thickener instead of gluten. This means you can be sure that the toothpaste is not using a gluten-based thickener, although it might not protect you from gluten in sorbitol or flavorings. Xanthan gum, on the other hand, is often made out of wheat, and can also contain other allergens. For example, Wal-Mart’s Equate toothpaste contains unspecified xanthan gum and is probably not gluten-free. Be aware that specialty and organic toothpaste often don’t list all their ingredients, and may also not be ADA approved – often because they do not contain fluoride. Because toothpaste is not considered a food, there is no real meaning to gluten-free labeling. However, reputable brands will generally be honest.
If in doubt, your best bet is to contact the manufacturer, especially if the ingredients list includes sorbitol or unspecified “natural flavors.” It’s in their interest to be honest with you, as they don’t want the bad PR of somebody getting a celiac attack after using their product!
And finally, talk to your dentist. They can make sure they don’t expose you to gluten in the office (in addition to toothpaste, gluten can sometimes be found in the starch used to powder dental gloves, flavorings on dental floss, some mouthwashes and even orthodontic retainers). To find out more about protecting yourself from gluten in oral health products, contact North Boulder Dental today.