With the rise in awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, an increasing number of companies are beginning to label their products as being “gluten free.” This is even true for products that are almost always naturally gluten-free. Debate has surrounded the need to seek out the “gluten free” label on products that are naturally gluten-free, or that are not consumed directly like food (e.g. bath products, personal care products). One item that has been a subject in this discussion is toothpaste. Most brands of toothpaste do not contain ingredients that directly contain gluten. However, many toothpaste brands have started to add the “gluten-free” label. With this debate, the question has been asked: Is it really necessary to buy gluten free toothpaste? Depending on who you ask, you will receive different answers.
You might be wondering why there is even a discussion surrounding this topic in the first place if most toothpaste does not contain ingredients with gluten. It is true that most brands of toothpaste contain the same variety of ingredients, all of which are naturally gluten-free. The main issue arises when discussing the thickening agents used. Thickening agents are starches that are typically corn or grain based. Even if the grain used is gluten-free, cross-contamination from these grains can easily occur. Although the potential amount of gluten introduced to the toothpaste using a corn or grain based thickening agent is small, it has sparked debate.
Those who are in favor of gluten-free labeling on toothpaste are concerned with the potential for gluten contamination. Gluten, even when introduced to the body in tiny amounts, has the potential to trigger a reaction in those who are highly sensitive to the mixture of proteins. While toothpaste does not generally contain any gluten ingredients, some individuals suffering with celiac disease prefer to be cautious, and for good reason. Reactions can range from mild to severe, and have the potential to send sufferers to the hospital. Gluten free toothpaste brands usually use alternatives to any ingredients that have the possibility for gluten contamination. Knowing that a company has taken extra steps to prevent gluten from making its way into a toothpaste is absolutely worth the extra price and effort for many.
On the opposite side of the argument are those who believe that adding the words “gluten free” on toothpaste boxes is unnecessary. The lack of significant research to show the impacts of possible cross-contamination of gluten in toothpaste continues to fuel the debate. While cross-contamination always remains a possibility, individuals on this side of the argument believe that there are no real consequences if gluten were introduced in such a small amount. Some of the skepticism has even come from those within the gluten-free community. There are those who suffer from conditions aggravated by gluten consumption who use standard toothpaste each day without suffering a reaction. These individuals believe that it is unnecessary to seek out toothpaste that is labeled as being “gluten free” due to the perceived lack of real issues it presents.
So the question remains: Should you make sure to seek out toothpaste that is labeled “gluten free” if you suffer from celiac disease or another condition requiring a gluten free diet? The short answer is that it is up to you and your good judgment. Those with the most extreme sensitivity to gluten can always benefit from the reassurance of knowing that extra care was taken to avoid gluten contamination. While gluten free toothpaste can mean a higher price tag, removing the chance for a negative reaction is worth it for many. However, if you have brushed your teeth using the same toothpaste for years with no issue, it is up to you to decide whether a change is really necessary. As with all medical concerns, consult with your doctor if you have questions about your medical condition.