Q. I have had trouble with recurrent canker sores for years. I finally figured out that avoiding toothpaste with tartar control or whitening agents keeps me out of trouble.
A. The medical literature is surprisingly sparse when it comes to whether tartar control or whitening compounds contribute to aphthous ulcers (canker sores). There is a popular belief that the detergent sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can trigger such lesions, but a small randomized controlled trial did not find such a link (Oral Diseases, Oct. 2012).
Other visitors to this website, including a dental hygienist, have suggested from their experience that whitening or tartar control toothpastes may be especially irritating. They have found that using Biotene or Weleda brand dentifrice can be helpful. Others simply clean their teeth with baking soda.
Home remedies that might be helpful for canker sores include applying the gel from an aloe vera leaf or licorice extract in a patch. Eating sauerkraut and swishing the juice around in the mouth frequently seem to speed healing. Eating kiwi fruit is another favorite remedy, as is swishing a swallow of buttermilk around in the mouth several times a day before drinking it down. L-lysine supplements are often used to treat cold sores; some people maintain they are also soothing for canker sores.
Keep in mind that recurrent canker sores could be a signal of an underlying health problem such as celiac disease or an autoimmune disorder.
If you have a favorite way to prevent canker sores, share it in the comments below: