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« Interview w/ Isabel Hoffmann: Her TellSpec device can tell us what allergens & pesticides are in our food. | Main | Best Allergen-Free Chocolate 2013 »

Gluten at Your Dentist? Many dental products contain that pesky allergen.

You, The Gluten Detective

When you are first diagnosed with a food allergy or with an auto-immune disease that is triggered by food, such as celiac disease, the path to removing an allergen seems fairly obvious, especially when it comes to gluten. You remove bread and pasta. Then you start reading labels. Then you start looking up words. You, or your child/mother/sister/brother/husband... begin to feel better and stop having reactions until one day, another reaction occurs and you have no idea "what you did wrong." After you finish flogging yourself, you become a detective and go through the list:

1. What did I eat?

2. When did I eat it?  Could I have a reaction that wasn't immediate?  Did I make a mistake today or was it several days ago with something new?

3. Could I have developed an allergy or sensitivity to something new (here's a list of the different types of food reactions)?

4. What did I do wrong? Could it be somewhere that isn't obvious (read the list of surprising place for hidden gluten here)?

If you are allergic to gluten, have gluten sensitivity, or have celiac disease, your detective work centers around that pesky composite of gluten proteins (glutenin & gliadin) found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale, spelt, and some other grains. Your beauty cabinet is your next suspect, because you had heard that gluten can get into your eyes, nose, and mouth through cosmetics and personal care products (read more about cosmetics here).  Supplements and medications are next - could they contain gluten?  Yes they can (read more about supplements and medications here).


Common Gluten-Containing Products in Your Dentist Office (& in Your Home)

I began suspecting that gluten was in my toothpaste because I would wake up about an hour after I went to bed with my heart racing, my intestines, spine, and knuckles swelling, and I wondered what on earth I could have eaten. I did my detective work and found that toothpaste commonly cotains gluten, but it is not found in common language on the label. I switched to Desert Essence gluten-free toothpaste and felt relief immediately.

But after a few days, I had the same thing happen. At 10pm I was tired and ready for bed. I was relaxed and felt like I could sleep for a fortnight. I brushed wtih gluten-free toothpaste, then I flossed with minted dental floss. I'd go to bed and wake up an hour later - again with heart racing, intestines and joints swelling. I went through every possible scenario and the ONLY item that went into my mouth or any other mucous membrane that I had NOT thoroughly researched was the dental floss. I stopped using the dental floss and the next night slept like a baby and after two nights woke up swelling-free.I now use unflavored, unwaxed dental floss and that seems to be fine.

This also made me stop to think. What about the dentist? I always feel pretty crappy after a dental cleaning. I've been avoiding the dentist and it could be for a number of reasons, but I've learned to listen to my intuition - something is making me sick at the dentist.

In my next step of detective work, I found that gluten lurks in many common dental products:

1. Toothpaste

2. Flavored polishing paste

3. Topical anesthetic

4. Fluoride commonly used in many dentist offices

5. Dental Gloves: Make sure they are not powdered. They can be powdered wtih starch, usually starch that contains wheat or could be corn starch cross contaminated with wheat.

6. Dental Floss: unwaxed and unflavored flosses are your best bet, but double check that your dentist has gluten-free floss.

7. The Dentist Mask: the mask itself might not contain gluten, but your dentist may not change the mask between patients and after using gloves that contain gluten. Just request that the mask be changed before your dentist and the assistant put on their gloves and treat you.

8. Clean Hands: Most dentists, of course will wash their hands before putting on their gloves and before treating you. Just make sure that your dentist understands that after handling a potentially gluten-containing product, that he/she and the assistant need to wash their hands before handling anything that they use for you.

9. Orthodonic Retainers & Bite Splints:  A new case study found that a girl was having trouble going into remission from celiac disease because of her retainer.  Gluten is a common additive in plastics. Read more about this study, here.

10. Mouthwash: some mouthwashes - at the dentist and at home, contain gluten. Dental products are not regulated by the FDA, like food is (although tye should be they are going in our mouth!!), so gluten may not be disclosed in the ingredients.


The Moral of the Story?

Check with your dentist before your next visit to see if they are "gluten literate." In other words, do they know, without a doubt, what ingredients are in the products that they use? Do they treat patients with celiac disease and gluten allergies? Gluten might not appear in the ingredients, since by law it does not have to for these particular products (yet). If your dentist office isn't able to or won't properly research the ingredients, ask for alternatives, or find a gluten-free dentist.

As I was working on this article, I ran across another today (serendipity) about a dentist in Boulder Colorado who specializes in gluten-free dentistry!  God bless Boulder, they are the good guys on the cusp of many a food fight. Maybe there is a gluten-free dentist in your town. I'm working on my own dentist right now to see if he can accommodate those of us with food allergies and celiac disease. People might laugh at a sign reading, "Gluten-free Dentist" but there are a lot of us who need one!


Companies Who are Claiming Gluten-free Status

(This list was begun on 10/29/2013. Please use this as a guide, but double check everything yourself against your own allergies & needs. Sometimes companies change formulation or policy, and The Tender Foodie may not be aware of this. Thank you!)



Update 3/4/2014: Here is a post on Triumph Dining indicating that the study findings were not conclusive - that the plastics in the retainer material may not leach out enough over time to cause alarm.Two dieticians, Amy Jones, MS, RD and Tricia Thompson, MS, RD, contacted the lead author of the study and came to this conclusion:

Amy Jones, MS, RD and Tricia Thompson, MS, RD
The original study led the dietitians to contact the lead author. After discussing, both were still not convinced of the retainer’s guilt in the diagnosis. Due to the half life of tTG (which is 6 months) and an outdated report on the contents of methylmethacrylate (from 1971), Amy Jones and Tricia Thompson concluded that “enough gluten would leach from the retainer to cause an increase in tTG levels seems a bit extraordinary.” - See more at:

 The original study led the dietitians to contact the lead author. After discussing, both were still not convinced of the retainer’s guilt in the diagnosis. Due to the half life of tTG (which is 6 months) and an outdated report on the contents of methylmethacrylate (from 1971), Amy Jones and Tricia Thompson concluded that “enough gluten would leach from the retainer to cause an increase in tTG levels seems a bit extraordinary.

This may put some fears to rest, but this will be an interesting study to follow.

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Reader Comments (12)

I knew this and my doctor recommended going to a biological or environmental dentist. Instead of your regular dentist. Unless they are willing to learn and accomodate you. Mine dentist wasnt and laughed when I spoke about gluten to him.
October 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterconnie curtis
thanks for your comment, Connie! I think dentists will start advertising their gluten-free services at some point and your laughing dentist might be a little sorry that he did laugh :). Great advice starting with a biological or environmental dentist they do tend to be more open to accommodating different health needs.
I had my dentist laugh at me and say something but that was 2 years ago and I never went back to him. I have to find an environmental or biological dentist in my area. I am wondering the dental things I use for floss. They fit in the reach are mint. Its all they ever have. It sounds like they could have gluten on them too?

October 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterconnie curtis
Since I buy the floss for the reach and it seems to be in mint. I have a hard time finding nothing flavored. is it possible that this has gluten in it too?
October 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterconnie curtis
Hi Connie,

Check out this link - according to Oral B - their dental floss does not contain gluten. And yes, it is tough to find unflavored floss these days! When I find it, I scoop it up. Because dental products are not governed by the FDA, which is the agency that has developed the gluten and other food allergy requirements/laws, its tough to know exactly what they mean by "contains no gluten." But it is a comfort to know they are claiming this on their site.

Here is the link to OralB-s site:
It is very informative and tells us about various dental products available in the field
January 29, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdental products
I found this article after getting a severe reaction to something at my dentists office. I get blisters and canker sores in my mouth after eating gluten, particularly if the food had sharp edges and pokes my cheek or gums.

A week ago I had work done in preparation for a crown. Afterwards my mouth broke out in a rash of blisters around the temporary crown on both sides of the tooth. The sore was much bigger and more painful than usual. I talked to the dentist about it, but I didn't think about gluten in the topical anesthetic or the cement for the temporary crown.

It is really frustrating and depressing when all my effeorts to stay gluten-free go down the drain like this. The fatigue, depression and brain fog have been severe since my appointment. I'm almost afraid to go back to be fitted with the permanent. crown.
April 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCurtis Martin
Oh my goodness! I hope you are feeling better. Thanks for your comment, Curtis. Yes, it is disheartening, indeed, to work so hard and still get whacked by a tiny ingredient! Ask your dentist to call each manufacturer for each of the products he / she is using. Dental products, from what I understand from my research and from my own dentist, dental brands do not have to disclose ingredients, but seem to be willing to do so. Your dentist may be willing to do some legwork for you to choose a more appropriate product. There are gluten-free cements, anesthetics, etc. out there, and he may have them in office, but doesn't know about them, or the dentist may be able to procure a gluten-free product before your next appointment. Keep us posted on how this goes, if you feel so inclined!
I got lot of information through this blog I refer my friends to see this blog it’s also useful to my friends.
June 19, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterabpdental
I seem to have a problem after the dentist as well! I have had quite a bit of dental work done in the past few years. I have a gluten, dairy and soy intolerance, and spinal stenosis, with three herniated discs. After I go to the dentist, I can hardly walk for a couple of days, and it seems to take two weeks (at least) to get back to normal. The other day, he repaired a chipped molar, and I asked about the adhesive (wouldn't that have glue??) He used a dam (at my request last visit, and he sort of chuckled, but he initiated the dam this visit) but I'm wondering if there is a connection. Like the above posts, I have racked my brain trying to think of what I have done different. I looked up novocaine to see if there was gluten in that, or if it would cause inflammation, but of course, don't know what the ingredients mean. It is disheartening to work so hard and still have issues.
May 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCarla Bernier
Hi Carla!

Thanks for your question. This might help:
I asked my dentist to go through every single thing that they use when they clean my teeth or repair anything in my mouth, as I had the same issues. He did so, and was able to choose products that did not contain any of my allergens, even traces after products had been distilled or processed. My chart has all of these products clearly noted, so that if I go in for a cleaning or filling, he and the technicians know what to do. They also tell me before they use anything what they are using so I can have the confidence that they are remembering not to use products with my allergens. I love my dentist for this (seriously love him), and there are other dentists out there who will do the same. It is a very good protocol. There were 2 manufacturers that I called myself because there was an ingredient that wasn't clear, and it wasn't clear if it was a gluten-free factory, and I have an allergy to tapioca. The dentist gave me the phone numbers for these 2 companies, but the dental office did 99% of the checking themselves. Products come in "lines" so that makes it easier, because there are dental companies who produce gluten-free products specifically for dentists.

Once we got organized, I now leave the dentist without a reaction! If your dentist won't do it, there are others who will.

Let us know how it goes if you have this conversation with your dentist, ok?

Oh god, I hope you're ok! I had some done without any problems but if i had read this first I may have reconsidered! Blimey!
September 8, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterInvisible Braces Liverpool

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