a canker sore (aphthous ulcer), remedy for canker sores

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:

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Mary
    Los Angeles

    I started taking a B-complex 50 supplement, with Biotene toothpaste, and that seems to help. I suspect many toothpaste ingredients are pretty harsh on the mouth for people like me.

  2. JoAnn
    Seattle, WA.

    I was using TOms of Maine for 20 years, & Colgate bought out Toms and put SLS in the toothpaste. It took me 6 months to figure out the problem.

    I became very ill, finally looked it up. It is very bad what Colgate did….

  3. Georgia, RDH

    Avoiding SLS definitely can help many people with canker sores. I have also heard from several of my patients that toothpaste with high concentrations of Xylitol works miracles. One brand my patients use is Squigle. I personally do not suffer from canker sores but hopefully this info will be helpful to those who haven’t found ref otherwise.

  4. SJD

    I would like to know the name of the tooth paste. I, too, have to avoid SLS and have been using Rembrant G (purple on tube) and it has worked well.
    Johnson and Johnson has eliminated it from their manufacturing so it is no longer available. I have tried several other brands and have found nothing that works as well. Would you please share the name of the toothpaste you mentioned.

  5. LS

    I have found that toothpastes with sodium lauryl sulfates make my tongue burn. I now buy toothpastes without it.

  6. Abigail Lumbard

    Cleaning teeth with baking soda can cause the enamel to be abraded. I brushed my teeth with baking soda after a hospital stay to avoid the various additives in toothpaste. My dentist told me not to do that and pointed out the damage done to the enamel on my teeth. Makes sense. I scour enamel surfaces with baking soda.

  7. rh

    I have had painful cracks in the corners of my lips and peeling skin when using a certain toothpaste. Don’t know if these can be called canker sores. I called the customer service department of the toothpaste company to ask what ingredient may be causing the problem and they said they have had no other complaints. That is what they always say. I buy toothpaste without SLS and have not had that problem again.

  8. JSC

    I was getting cancer sores very often for years, using all different types of toothpaste. About 8 years ago I switched to a toothpaste with no SLS (sodium laurel sulfate), and I have not had one sore since. It’s certainly worth a try.

  9. Mary

    I have found that taking 25-50 mg of zinc tablets will stop canker sores on my tongue. Otherwise, I would get one on the tip of the tongue regularly. Sore!!!
    The amount of zinc in multis doesn’t do it.

  10. hb

    I to have had ulcerations in my mouth and had read a article about toothpaste being the cause. To my surprise I changed to Sensodyne, got the old stuff out of my bathroom and have never had a problem since!!!! Believe it or not the article said, “it was the the stuff that makes the toothpaste sudsy that is causing the problem” !!!!! Have been free of canker sores since I changed toothpaste!!!! Good luck.

  11. RDW

    If I use toothpaste with a whitener, the inside of my mouth peels. When I stopped using toothpaste with whitener, my mouth does not peel any more.

  12. RdN

    Your recommendation to try pepto bismo has suppressed mine such that they are much less painful or disappear after couple days.

  13. Alice

    It is the same for me.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.