It’s something you do several times a day (hopefully) and you probably give it little thought. The surprising fact is, your daily brushing with that big label toothpaste just may be contributing to your mouth sores. The culprit: the ubiquitous sodium laurel sulfate, commonly known as SLS.
Researchers still don’t know precisely how and why mouth ulcers appear, but a contributing factor for many people plagued with recurring aphthous stomatitis or RAS, the medical term for canker sores, might just be the SLS found in most major toothpaste brands.
This inexpensive detergent and surfactant is used in high concentrations for industrial cleaning, in laundry soap, dish detergent, and it’s also found in most products you use on your body every day, from liquid soap, body washes, bubble bath, shaving cream, and shampoo and to toothpaste and many mouthwashes and cosmetic products. It has a thickening effect and produces that lather that many of us think helps make us cleaner.
SLS is considered an irritant, in fact it is known to cause skin and eye irritations. So why is it in toothpaste? Well, it helps create foam and it helps bind the toothpaste ingredients together. The problem is, it has been found to dry out and irritate the oral cavity and may cause tiny tears to the inside of your mouth and increase the incidence of mouth ulcers. There are several studies that suggest this ingredient may contribute to mouth irritations and canker sores (Swedish Dental Journal, Jan-March, 2003). Some people find that when they switch to a non-SLS toothpaste the inflammation in their gums and tongue goes away and canker sore outbreaks diminish or disappear altogether.
There are alternative to sodium laurel sulfate to get your teeth clean and even produce the foam you like. The irony is that lather or foam isn’t necessary to cleanse, but we are so used to foaming products we expect it and feel like we don’t really get ourselves clean without it. Glycyrrhizin, derived from licorice root, is an excellent foaming agent and recent research shows it also may help heal canker sores. Xylitol is a natural cleaning agent derived from corn or birch trees and it’s also a sweetener. Along with the stain remover hydrated silica, both are found in a number of SLS-free toothpastes and they do a good job cleaning your teeth without the harshness or irritation.
Overview of Best Toothpastes for Canker Sore Sufferers
Since most of the big brand toothpastes have sodium laurel sulfate, you will have to dig a little to find SLS-free products. Fortunately, more companies are moving toward offering options without this detergent. You may or may not find some of these products in the grocery store or drugstore and they tend to cost a little more. However, so many people seem to find improvement or even get rid of their frequent mouth ulcers by making a change in their toothpaste that it is certainly worth giving it a try. Below is a recap of several fairly easy-to-find toothpastes free of this ingredient. If you find that your canker sores improve, do leave a comment below to let others know.
PowerSmile Toothpaste by Jason is free of sodium laurel sulfate, saccharin, artificial preservatives and fluoride. While some prefer a toothpaste with fluoride, if you are looking for a fluoride free toothpaste this is a good bet. This product uses Bamboo, Calcium Carbonate and Silica for whitening and Perilla Seed Extract to prevent tarter buildup. You can get it in several flavors, it produces a little but not a lot of foam and the texture is similar to “regular” toothpastes. You should be able to find this product in most stores.
The Natural Dentist
Natural Dentist toothpaste uses 10 percent Xylitol as a cleanser and for sweetening and has no artificial ingredients. It was formulated by a dentist to be gentle and irritant free and is available in several flavors.
Tom’s of Maine
Look for the Tom’s of Maine Clean and Gentle Care formulation. Tom’s makes several different products and not all of them are SLS free. It is not promoted as a mouth ulcer toothpaste but it uses glycyrrhizin and Xylitol and hydrated silica for cleansing. You should be able to find this formula at health food stores as well as Amazon.
Rembrandt Whitening Canker Sore Toothpaste
This fluoride toothpaste, formulated for canker sore sufferers, uses Xylitol, silica and glycerin. It is a whitening toothpaste with low abrasion and contains no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors. It does contain saccharin, which some people may want to avoid. You can find it here and in drugstores.
Biotene is promoted for plaque removal and dry mouth and does not contain sodium laurel sulfate. It contains enzymes that help remove plaque and reduce oral bacteria. You don’t need to be suffering from dry mouth to use it, although a dry mouth can lead to mouth sores. It may be hard to find in drugstores but it is easily available online. It really makes your teeth feel clean without using harsh detergents.
If simply making a change in your toothpaste can help reduce or eliminate your canker sores, it is well worth experimenting to find out.