Do you get blisters on the gums in your mouth? Consider trying an SLS free toothpaste – Many of us get blisters in our mouth and often we ask ourselves ‘Who have I been kissing recently?‘ or ‘Was the beer glass last night really clean?‘. Well think again – the sores or blisters may be linked to a very common ingredient in your toothpaste. More below…
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As a child whenever I had medical problems my go-to source of health advice was my mother. I recently popped over to see her and celebrate her birthday and not surprisingly we got on to talking about health issues. She told me that she had recently stopped using her life-long preferred toothpaste (Colgate) because she had heard that it can cause mouth sores.
She had suffered from recurring gum sores in her mouth for many years and had never thought it might be related to the toothpaste she had always used. Then she discovered that an ingredient in Colgate toothpaste called Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) can lead to something called Recurrent Aphthous Ulcers also known as Canker Sores or Mouth Ulcers.
My mother changed her toothpaste to one that was sodium lauryl sulphate free and she no longer suffers from recurring mouth ulcers.
As I have also been a life-long user of Colgate (recommended by Mum!) I decided to do some research and check out why manufacturers use sodium lauryl sulphate. I was rather disappointed to discover that this ingredient does not really contribute to the hygiene of my mouth – it is added as a kind of marketing gimmick. It actually causes the toothpaste to froth up in your mouth so you think it is helping to clean up the ‘nasties’. It is this ability to cause a froth which also makes it a popular ingredient in shampoos.
So what is Sodium lauryl sulphate or SLS? It is a cheap anionic surfactant – which means it can help oily things to mix with water. In other words it is a detergent and a popular cheap ingredient in cosmetics (helps remove oil from your skin) and as a household cleansing agent (for greasy kitchen floors). This is the stuff that Colgate-Palmolive (and other makers of SLS containing toothpaste) recommend you put into your mouth at least twice a day.
As well as creating the frothy feel when you clean your teeth SLS can also strip away the natural protective lining of your mouth. Your body’s surface cells secrete oily substances to protect the mouth and other surfaces from bacteria – these oily secretions contain natural chemicals which can attack harmful microbes. These protective substances are washed away by the detergent action of SLS (in the froth) – it also attacks the protective cells lining the surface of the mouth. This opens the door to bugs and ulcers.
Like my mother I have also investigated a replacement for Colgate as my preferred toothpaste by looking for an SLS-free alternative. Manufacturers have a number of tricks to hide unwanted chemicals when listing ingredients on their packaging. For example sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) can also be described using a number of other names like those below:
- Akyposal SDS
- Aquarex Methyl
- Dodecyl sodium sulphate
- Lauryl sodium sulphate
- Monododecyl ester
- Monododecyl ester sodium salt sulphuric acid
- Sodium dodecyl sulphate
- Sodium laurylsulphate
- Sulphuric acid monododecyl ester sodium salt
(note: in the US the ‘ph’ in sulpher/sulphate/sulphuric is replaced with an ‘f’)
In the local supermarket I scanned the products on offer and found that Sensodyne Original toothpaste does not include SLS or Sodium Lauryl Sulthate in its list of ingredients:
I should however point out that several other brands of Sensodyne Toothpaste did appear to contain SLS so it is important to be careful which brand you buy. When I brushed my teeth with the Sensodyne Original toothpaste it felt more ‘runny’ than the Colgate I was used to. This is no doubt due to the lack of the frothing agent – which does not help with the cleaning action. It is precisely this ‘thicker’ feeling that manufacturers hope will make customers think their toothpaste is more effective. As I mentioned above – it this a marketing trick – for the same reason a thickener is added to most toilet cleaners – people identify ‘thicker liquids’ with ‘more powerful action’. I do not recommend or endorse Sensodyne original toothpaste but to avoid SLS I will certainly be using it in place of Colgate in future.
Health tip of the week: The froth in your mouth is not necessarily good for oral hygiene.
The Author is not professionally qualified to give medical advice – if you have any concerns about sores, toothpaste or oral sex please consult your dentist or doctor.
It will be interesting to see whether SLS is permitted when Astronauts clean their teeth in space – presumably uncontrolled frothing of the mouth is dangerous in zero gravity?…
If you found this article interesting please consider taking a look at some of my other recent reports on similar subjects.
Just click on the titles below:
…starting with some fun related articles:
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some here is some more serious stuff:
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