Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Canker Sores


Arianna Ritchey, RDH

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Canker Sores

There are many different types of toothpastes available to consumers, and there are a variety of benefits available in each of the different types of toothpastes related to their active ingredients.  With so many different ingredients present in toothpastes, some toothpastes may cause an unpleasant or even allergic reaction inside the mouth.  One ingredient commonly found in toothpaste that can cause reactions in some patient is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, also known by its abbreviation, SLS.  

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SLS is a foaming agent that creates that nice, rich foam we expect from our soaps and toothpastes. It’s also a detergent, and thus strips away hard-to-get-rid of fats.  Similar to other detergents, SLS can be an irritant to those with sensitive skin or a sensitivity to SLS itself.  SLS is found in many shampoos, soaps, and is used to create a foaming action in all Colgate brand toothpastes and Crest brand toothpastes.  

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The most common reaction to SLS in the mouth is the development of aphthous ulcers, more commonly known as canker sores.  Canker sores are benign ulcerations of the soft tissues that can range from a minor irritation to a major ulcer which can be quite painful.   While the actual cause of canker sores is unknown, certain factors are recognized as triggers of the onset of a canker sore.  Any type of trauma to the mucus lining of the mouth can trigger a canker sore, be it inadvertently biting the tongue or cheek, or perhaps a food irritant such as chocolate, mustard, nuts, tomatoes, shellfish, and or pineapple.  An irritant like SLS may also trigger canker sore development.

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At this time there are no treatments to prevent a canker sore, but once they have developed, canker sores may be treated palliatively with a topical anesthetic, like Orajel.  Another option for treatment is laser therapy by a laser-certified dental hygienist, or dentist.  Heat from the laser is used to kill any virus present and to stimulate the body’s healing potential.  Laser treatments take about 15 minutes and most patients feel better immediately following treatment.  

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If you are experiencing recurrent sores in your mouth, many dental professionals recommend switching to a toothpaste without SLS to see if that helps resolve the issue.  Two toothpastes which are SLS-free and are accepted by the American Dental Association are Rembrandt Premium Whitening Mint Toothpaste, and Sensodyne ProNamel Mint Essence Toothpaste.  


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If mouth sores persist after the discontinuation of a SLS toothpaste, this may be an indication of a nutritional deficiency, including deficiency in iron, folic acid, and other B vitamins.  Vitamin supplements or an improved diet may eliminate these deficiencies, but it is advisable to ask your physician for a nutritional assessment.

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What Is Laser Dentistry?



Peggy Storr RDH

Just as in other areas of medicine, lasers are increasingly becoming more common in dentistry.  Lasers are instruments that produce a very narrow but intense beam of light. The light can remove or shape tissue. While lasers have been used in dentistry since 1985, its estimated that only 6% of dental offices utilize lasers. With improvements in technology and as the cost of lasers decrease, a greater number of dentists and hygienists will feel confident in incorporating lasers into their treatments.

How are lasers used in dentistry?

Hard Tissue (or Tooth) Laser Procedures

  • Cavity detection: Lasers provide readings of by-products produced by tooth decay
  • Tooth preparation for fillings- dental lasers may soon eliminate the need for anesthetic and the dental drill.
  • Tooth Sensitivity-lasers may be used to seal tubules located on the root of the tooth that are responsible for sensitive teeth.
  • Help treat infections in root canals



Soft Tissue (or Gum) Laser Procedures

  • Reshaping of gum tissue to expose tooth structure if needed to place a filling
  • Reshaping gum tissue to improve the appearance of a gummy smile
  • Remove inflamed gum tissues and aid in the treatment of gum disease
  • Removing muscle attachments causing “tongue-tie”
  • Removing benign tumors from gums, palate, sides of cheeks and lips
  • Reducing pain and minimize healing of cold sores
  • Treat pain and inflammation of temporomandibular joint disorder


While lasers do not yet replace the traditional dental drill, or the instruments the dental hygienist uses to scale teeth, improvements in laser technology will soon offer quicker, more effective and more comfortable procedures than in the past. This is good news for all especially those of you are anxious at the thought of visiting the dentist!

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Lesley Ranft, The Future of Dental Lasers, Retrieved from  http://www.Consumer Guide to Dentistry

Lesley Ranft, Laser Dentistry: Enhancing Dental Treatment with Lasers, Retrieved from http://www.Consumer Guide to Dentistry

http://www.Know Your What is Laser Dentistry?