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Palatine & Yorkville Dental Blog

A Dentist’s Opinion about Gluten-Free Toothpaste

In America today, there is a growing propensity for consumers to gravitate towards 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. Webster’s dictionary defines diet as food and drink regularly provided or consumed, habitual nourishment, the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason, and finally, 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 less 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’s 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. Finally, 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.


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


“Carboxymethyl cellulose” by Edgar181 – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

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Total Dentistry: Easing Patient Fears with Sedation Dentistry

Imagine a patient sitting in a dentist’s chair ready for a cleaning, but the dentist is unable to proceed because the patient is paralyzed by fear and anxiety. Fear of the dentist prevents many people from seeking dental care, both routine and emergency, resulting in unnecessary tooth decay and loss. The dental world has come up with a solution to this problem with the use of sedation dentistry, allowing patients the opportunity to be in a relaxed state when the dental work is being performed. Sedation dentistry offers many benefits to patients, including easing the anxiety of patients who suffer from a severe dental phobia.

Understanding sedation dentistry is the first step in getting to the core of how it helps patients. Sedatives such as tranquilizers, anti-anxiety medications, depressants, and nitrous oxide induce the patient into a state of calm. In the past, most patients were only offered these medications intravenously or via inhalation, but that has changed drastically. Most patients are now offered oral sedation dentistry through pills that are given prior to and during the appointment to ease them into a relaxed state.

The first, and possibly the most important, benefit of sedation during dental appointments is the fact that it allows people who would otherwise never seek treatment to get the routine dental care they need. They will not fall into the trap of being so afraid that they only go to the dentist when they are in so much pain that they cannot function. Sedated dental patients often remember very little about the procedure, which reduces anxiety levels for future visits.

Patients who are sedated have a higher pain threshold. The sedative, also controls a very sensitive gag reflex and other uncontrolled movements of anxious patients. In the past, these patients would have had to be put to sleep under general anesthesia, requiring an oral surgeon and long recovery times.

Among the many benefits of sedation is the fact that procedures that take hours to perform may seem like they only took minutes to the patient. For example, if a patient comes in for a complicated rebuilding procedure, the sedatives help him or her to relax and be in a cooperative state. This allows the dentist to complete the procedure without having to stop to deal with an upset patient or one who is exhausted from keeping his mouth open for too long, resulting in fewer visits to get the job done.

A relaxed and cooperative patient also results in better quality dentistry. The dentist has fewer interruptions, so he or she is able to perform each step with accuracy. The more accurate the procedure, the less healing time and muscle pain there is for the patient when it is over.

Dental bills can add up quickly, especially when it comes to long procedures. Sedation allows the dentist to work without interruption for long periods of time, which results in fewer visits that would each require the patient to pay more. Fewer visits also mean that the patient requires less time away from work or family.

People who are sedated tend to have great oral health because they no longer avoid their cleanings and annual x-rays that keep teeth healthy. They avoid costly and painful root canals or extractions because the teeth remain in good condition due to proper care. There is no need for people to suffer with an embarrassing smile because they are afraid. Sedation dentistry can make the patient comfortable enough to endure any procedure that gets him or her on the road to a better smile.

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How Polyethylene Microbeads May be Ruining Your Gum Health

A new scandal has hit the world of dentistry, in the form of tiny, blue microbeads. These beads are commonly used by some toothpaste manufacturers, for decorative purposes. These polyethylene microbeads are not biodegradable, which makes them potentially harmful to gum health.


How Can Polyethylene Beads Harm Gum Health?


Polyethylene microbeads are not biodegradable, and they can get stuck in the gums and crevices between teeth. Toothbrushes are designed to get deep down in gums, to help clean out germs and bacteria to improve mouth health. However, when people use toothpaste with microbeads, toothbrushes are pushing these tiny beads into the gums and between the teeth. Once these beads have been lodged in these areas, they become breeding grounds for germs and bacteria. Germs and bacteria can cause cavities, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. While there have not been any studies linking microbeads as the cause of any of the dental health problems, it is under investigation. It is also the reason that the dental community is in an uproar. Dentists such as those at Total Dentistry, located at 647 N. 1st Bank Drive in Palatine, IL, phone number (847)358-2477 removed these beads from patient’s teeth.


Can They Be Removed?


Yes, the microbeads are able to be removed. However, dentists such as those at Total Dentistry of Yorkville, located at 624 W. Veterans Parkway, Suite C in Yorkville, IL, phone number (630)553-8664, have spent many hours trying to remove these imbedded in their patient’s teeth. The problem with polyethylene microbeads, however, is not the amount of time that it takes to remove them. It is the amount of time they spend imbedded in the gums and teeth. They trap bacteria that can remain in the teeth for days, weeks, or even months before being removed. This can have a negative effect on gum health.


If Polyethylene Microbeads are Potentially Unsafe, Why Are Toothpaste Companies Using Them?


Companies began polyethylene microbeads in their toothpaste products to add visual appeal. They chose to do this under the assumption that because the FDA has previously approved of the use of polyethylene beads when it comes in contact with food, it is also safe to use in toothpaste. However, the FDA has stated that this is not the case. While there is no significant damage proven to be associated with use of these microbeads, the FDA does not approve of their use.


Why Are Microbeads Still Being Used?


After toothpaste customers and dentists have complained, many toothpaste companies have begun the removal of these microbeads from future production of toothpaste. They are beginning to phase out microbeads from all of their products. Companies such as Proctor and Gamble have announced that all polyethylene microbeads are planned to be removed by March of the year 2016.


Proctor and Gamble has also released a comment that this is not due to any damage caused by the microbeads in any of their products. However, many dentists and toothpaste customers are dissatisfied by the product. This dissatisfaction is the reason they are phasing out microbeads from all of their products.




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Over-the-Counter Whitening vs. In-Office Teeth Whitening

A whiter, brighter smile is often associated with youth, warmth, and happiness. It also has a large effect on how society will view you. According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), 99.7% of adults view a smile as being the most important social asset. The survey also shows that the majority believe an attractive smile makes you more attractive to the opposite sex, while an unattractive smile may prevent career success.

Once you understand the benefits of a whiter, brighter smile, you can make the decision to do something about your smile today. As you seek out a way to whiten and brighten your teeth, you will find there are two options, in-office whitening and over-the counter treatments. The treatment you choose will depend on the reason you need teeth whitening, as well as the specifics of the treatment.

Why You May Need Teeth Whitening

Perhaps the largest reason that whiter teeth are associated with youth is that our teeth often become yellow or discolored over time. This can be caused by foods, genetics, antibiotics, or even the passage of time. External discoloration is very common in adults. However, more severe internal discoloration may also occur. This happens when the enamel and the dentin of the tooth are discolored. This is most frequently caused by childhood antibiotic use, tooth decay, root canal problems, trauma, high levels of fluoride, developmental delay, and tetracycline. Any one of these factors can caused a yellowed or stained appearance to the teeth and result in a desire for teeth whitening in the future. External staining is often caused by coffee, carrots, and other foods, as well as tobacco use.

Types of Over-the-Counter Teeth Whitening

When you choose to whiten your teeth at home, you have several different options including teeth whitening strips, gels, toothpaste, and bleach kits.


Strips can be effective for whitening teeth. They also can be worn longer, depending on the severity of the staining on your teeth. The disadvantage of choosing teeth whitening strips, however, is that they usually only cover the six front teeth. This means that your back teeth go without whitening. This gives your entire mouth an uneven covering, however, they may work well for individuals who have capped back teeth.


Teeth whitening gels are typically sold as either a “paint-on” application, or with a mouth tray. The gel contains a peroxide-bleaching substance that whitens the teeth. There are two disadvantages to using over-the-counter whitening products. First, the peroxide solution can be dangerous if the use is not monitored. Second, if you choose a gel that comes with a tray, you may find that the tray does not fit. This can allow the gel to overflow, causing damage to the gums.


Whitening toothpaste is probably the one of the most affordable options for someone looking to whiten their teeth at home. However, most toothpaste contains abrasive agents, which help to remove surface stains regardless of whether or not it is considered whitening toothpaste. According to dentists, whitening toothpastes do only a little more than any other tube of toothpaste. They are also only effective in removing stains and discoloration from the surface of your teeth, making them a lot less effective than other teeth whitening procedures over-the-counter and in the dental office.


Like gels, other types of over-the-counter bleaching products are used with a tray, or brushed onto the teeth. The disadvantage to this method is that if your teeth are crooked, the tray may not fit. It may also be difficult to cover all areas of your teeth with the bleaching brush. The amount of bleaching chemicals is also significantly lower than the amount used in a dentist’s office, because its use is not closely monitored. This makes it less effective than treatments done in the office.

Pros and Cons of In-Office Teeth Whitening

There are several advantages to choosing to whiten your teeth using professional procedures at a dental office. First, the results of the treatment are seen immediately. Often, whitening procedures are performed in a one-hour time frame. At the end of this hour, you can see your results. This is different because most over-the-counter products take weeks before you see results. At a dental office, you can have your teeth whitened by up to 10 shades by the end of your visit.

Another advantage of choosing in-office teeth whitening is the strength of the whitening solution used. The reason professional whitening is so much faster and more effective than over-the-counter treatments is because it has a higher concentration of the bleaching element. This higher concentration is FDA approved because its use is monitored by your dentist.

Finally, in-office whitening is safer than over-the-counter treatments. While the concentration of the bleaching element is higher, it is better monitored by a professional. This allows for a safer and more effective treatment.

There are two disadvantages of choosing in-office teeth whitening. First, it is one of the more costly forms of teeth whitening. However, you may find that your insurance will cover some of the procedure. The second disadvantage is that the high concentration of chemicals means you can only have your teeth whitened as often as your dentist will allow. Luckily, you can use over-the-counter products to touch up your smile between visits.

When to Use Each Treatment

While it may seem that in-office teeth whitening is the only option you should choose, it is important to remember that each option does have benefits. Some dentists recommend restricting the number of in-office whitening visits to no more than once or twice yearly. In between professional whitening procedures, you may find that over-the-counter treatments work very well. They give you the option of touching up your smile between visits, so that the results of your last professional visit can last a year or longer. If you are concerned about the upkeep of your white smile, speak with your dentist about prescribing a customized tray or whitening procedure that will work best for your smile.

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