After I decided to eliminate xanthan gum from the foods and products I’d been using because it could potentially be derived from wheat, I went through my pantry, refrigerator, freezers, bathroom cabinets, etc. to look for things that would need replacing. I immediately threw out things with xanthan gum where I didn’t know of the source. However, my toothpaste was one thing I’d been using regularly and had not noticed problems with it, so I continued using it. I was working through one tube and still had another one in the bathroom. I figured when I’d finished that second tube, I would look for a replacement toothpaste that did not have xanthan gum.

Over time, I finished that tube and began using the second. It was after I began using the second tube that I would wake up during the night and notice that something wasn’t right. I’d been struggling with reactions to things at work, so I just assumed I was having symptoms from exposures that might have happened during the day. However, I woke up one morning with that same feeling after a day where I had treated symptoms with antihistamines and actually felt great before I went to bed. I began thinking about what I could have done before bed that would have possibly brought on symptoms, and my thoughts immediately went to the toothpaste since I knew it contained xanthan gum. I took some antihistamines, removed my

My retainers in their case

My retainers in their case

retainers (Hawley-type), put them on a paper towel, and set to work cleaning my retainer case, everything I used for dental hygiene, and the sink basin and area around it, and the faucet. I gave away the toothpaste and the mouthwash. I wasn’t sure where the contamination could be coming from, so I decided not to take a chance on any of it. Since I didn’t have a replacement toothpaste on hand to use, one that I knew didn’t contain xanthan gum, and since I wanted to go see my nephew play football, I didn’t make it to the store to get replacement toothpaste and mouthwash, and therefore brush my teeth and retainers, for a few hours. My symptoms came back rather than being helped by the antihistamines as a result. As soon as I was able, I headed to the store to get a toothpaste without xanthan gum and some more mouthwash. When I got home, I brushed my teeth and retainers and rinsed out my mouth. I took more antihistamines. I began feeling better. That night, I again used the new toothpaste to brush my teeth and put in my retainers that I had previously brushed with the new toothpaste. The next day, I felt better than I had the previous day. I felt like I had taken care of whatever the problem (or problems) may have been. I knew it could be any number of things, but my top suspect was my old toothpaste.

Things were fine for about a couple of weeks, but I began to notice symptoms returning during the night. I wondered if I had cleaned my retainer case thoroughly enough. I felt like I had hand-washed it pretty vigorously, but to be on the safe side, I ran it through the dishwasher. It seemed like that did the trick because I didn’t notice the symptoms recurring, and by then I was beginning to think that the toothpaste was the actual culprit after all. That lasted for about a week, and symptoms returned again. I woke up in the night feeling a little sick to my stomach and with that lead-weight feeling. I got up out of bed and took Benadryl and Zantac. I decided to take out my retainers, brush my teeth, and rinse out my mouth again. I also changed my pillowcase and washed my face around my mouth. I pulled my hair back in a headband. I just had no idea what was causing problems this time. I considered my retainers. What if I had never completely gotten rid of the residue from the old toothpaste off them? They would need to be cleaned another way. I knew the dentist or orthodontist could give them a thorough cleaning. I had to have them cleaned that way to remove tons of buildup from years of improper cleaning. However, with it being Friday, my dentist would be closed. I wasn’t sure of the orthodontist’s hours, and the last time he cleaned my retainers, he charged me for it. I finally decided to do the only other thing I could think of to do, clean them in the dishwasher. I had no idea if they were dishwasher-safe. I decided to wash them in the top rack inside a mesh bag with the toothbrush I use to clean them. I decided to wash my retainer case in the dishwasher again as well. Friday morning, before I got ready for work, I loaded the dishwasher with dirty dishes and included my retainers, the retainer case, and the toothbrush I use to clean my retainers. As planned, I put the toothbrush and retainers in a mesh bag on the top rack. I wanted to make sure they would not fall to the bottom. I ran the dishwasher as I was getting ready for work. It was close enough to being done by the time I was ready to go, so I just opened up the dishwasher to remove them and check on them. They looked fine when I removed them. I decided later, out of curiosity, to do some searching online about the dishwasher-safety of retainers to see what I could find out. I was dismayed to read that one should absolutely not place retainers in the dishwasher, boil them in water, run them in the dryer by mistake, etc. because of the heat. Heat can distort the shape of retainers, making them unwearable. I wondered how they would fit when I put them in that night. I was worried that I might have damaged them and would have to take them to the orthodontist to have them fixed. I’m sure they would love my story about how they came to need repairs! When I put them in that night, they felt tight, but not much more so than at other times. I slept fine with them in, and they felt fine when I woke up the next morning.

Since washing my retainers in the dishwasher, I’ve not had the nighttime symptoms recur. I’m hoping I’ve taken care of any problems the toothpaste I was using may have caused, which I’m now absolutely certain was the culprit causing my nighttime symptoms. My retainers also still seem to be fine. If they changed shape at all, I certainly don’t think it will cause the problems that years of residue build-up on them had caused, when I wasn’t cleaning them properly. Once they had been cleaned and had all that residue removed, I could tell a big difference in how they felt and fit. The difference this time I don’t think has come even close to being that significant. I don’t plan on ever washing my retainers in the dishwasher again, though. I’ll make sure to get them to my dentist for a cleaning if needed, even if I have to wait until after the weekend to have it done. I don’t want to take a chance that the next time in the dishwasher might cause some real damage. I certainly don’t endorse anyone else doing the same with their dental appliances! Please get them to your orthodontist or dentist for a thorough and safe cleaning.

This was a crazy issue to uncover, and I’m glad it didn’t take me long to figure it out. Even when the symptoms came back, I was thankfully able to handle their source. I continue to be amazed at the things that affect me and cause symptoms. It’s still hard for me to believe at times that I can be this sensitive. I wonder how many others have had problems from xanthan gum in something like toothpaste, something you don’t actually eat. When you consider the amount of xanthan gum that would be in the small amount of toothpaste you put on your toothbrush and then consider the miniscule amount of wheat residue that might be left behind in that small amount of xanthan gum, it really blows the mind.


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