Q. I was troubled with recurrent canker sores for a while. The only thing that had changed was my toothpaste. I wanted whiter teeth, so I was using whitening toothpastes.

I got canker sores when there was sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in the toothpaste. As soon as I switched to toothpaste without SLS, the mouth sores went away.

A. Many readers report that if they avoid toothpaste with SLS, mouth ulcers are less troublesome. Nevertheless, a randomized controlled trial of SLS-free toothpaste did not result in a change in outbreaks. It did cut healing time and reduce pain (Oral Diseases, Oct. 2012)

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  1. Megan

    This is an interesting blurb. I’ve had canker sores since I was a child. I would get them often. They lasted a long time and were very painful (swollen lymph nodes, etc). I finally switched my toothpaste, as many have recommended, to a non-sls. I chose Burt’s Bees. It worked! I never got canker sores anymore, unless I bit my cheek and then I might get one. My dentist however noticed my teeth weren’t as clean after 6 months and asked if I would use sensodyne instead since it also didn’t have sls. So I did ,and the canker sores came back. I wasn’t willing to give up on the progress so I searched on the internet and found a toothpaste called squiggle. I sent the info about it to my dentist and they gave it the okay. It’s expensive but works and that makes it so worth it. Interesting that people think it is the sls, but the trial didn’t make the connection and it wasn’t for me either…maybe it’s something else in the toothpaste or there are differences in sls from product to product.

  2. Mary

    My dentist warned that she used a special baking soda for cleaning and the normal stuff could harm teeth.

  3. Mary

    I have a filling on a front tooth I broke when I had a hard fall.
    I was reluctant to use toothpaste with fluoride in it so my dentist suggested baking soda.
    The resin in the filling changed colors (yellowish) and it actually fell off. It had been on for about 9 months when this happened and it looked normal before I started using the baking soda.
    I did find a Tom’s of Maine toothpaste that is fluoride free and use it 2-3 times a week. Other times, I just brush with a wet brush after flossing.
    Re mouth canker sores: My gynecologist suggested I try Zinc and it works. The amount of zinc in a multi is not high enough to be effective for me.

  4. Abigail

    Warning ! I used baking soda to brush my teeth after a serious upper GI infection put me in the hospital. Thought I’d be pure. I had some on hand because I sometimes use it as an underarm deodorant. Baking soda is used for cleaning, right? My dentist said I had abraded the enamel on my teeth. This was pure stuff, no added corn starch.

  5. nb

    My remedy for whitening teeth is to brush with baking soda – you can get used to the taste – and rinse for a minute or more with peroxide. I started doing this rather than going the route many do because I have noticed many people whose teeth, though white, are actually translucent.

  6. JE

    I’ve been suffering with sinus type headaches and sometimes numbness in my nose and a sore spot in my mouth. Two doctors and scopes and scans showed healthy tissue. After reading about canker sore outbreaks possibly related to SLS in toothpaste I switched to baking soda and coconut for mouthwash. The sore spot cleared up as did the headaches.

  7. fbl

    My reaction to MSG started with my mouth peeling, then the lips. Later I started getting swelling and it got so bad my right eye swelled shut. The last time I inadvertently consumed MSG my throat started closing and I was barely breathing when we reached the Dr.’s office.
    I now avoid anything with additives. Makes eating out tricky but most restaurants are good about checking ingredients.
    This allergy process took quite a few years to develop fully so if your mouth is peeling check ingredients!

  8. RDW

    My dentist was putting on a crown for me and noticed the inside of my mouth was peeling. He said some people react to whitening toothpaste by making the inside of the mouth peel. I switched to a non-whitening formula and no more mouth peeling. Just another example of everyone reacting to substances in different ways.

  9. Brenda

    A friend suggested I avoid SLS in toothpaste and it did seem to help but for the past year I have had several invasive dental procedures which brought on lots of canker sores. It was annoying and painful. I wasn’t able to eat normally for 10-12 days at a time. I tried everything and finally got so fed up that I started brushing with plain baking soda. flossing, and using an irrigator. We have flouridated water so I figure I’m getting probably more flouride than I need.
    At any rate, even though I have had more dental work and have bitten my mouth several times, I haven’t had an outbreak. It might be coincidental but it’s working and I’m sticking to it.

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