A Dentist’s Opinion about Gluten-Free Toothpaste
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.
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.
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.