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Let's Talk About: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Canker Sores

By N. Hugues

Let’s Talk About: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Canker Sores

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a ubiquitous ingredient found in numerous personal care and food products, used for its ability to create foam and lather... even when unnecessary. While commonly used in toothpaste and foods, the benefits of SLS come with potential drawbacks, particularly when it comes to oral health. In this blog, we'll delve into what SLS is, its uses, the effects it has on oral tissue, and explore alternatives for those seeking gentler options. Plus, discover how products like The Canker Spanker can provide relief from SLS-induced canker sores and mouth ulcers.

What is SLS?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) was discovered in the early 20th century by German chemists. It was first synthesized in the 1930s as a surfactant, a type of compound that lowers the surface tension between two substances, making it easier to mix them together. Initially, SLS was primarily used in industrial settings, such as in cleaning agents and detergents, due to its excellent foaming and cleaning properties.

The widespread adoption of SLS in consumer products began in the mid-20th century when its effectiveness as a surfactant was recognized by the personal care and food industries. Companies started incorporating SLS into various products, including toothpaste, shampoos, body washes, and food items, to enhance their cleaning power and create a foamy lather that consumers associated with cleanliness.

One of the key reasons SLS gained popularity in personal care products is its ability to efficiently remove dirt, oil, and food particles from surfaces. In toothpaste, for example, SLS helps create a foamy texture that enhances the sensation of cleanliness and leaves the mouth feeling fresh. Similarly, in food products, SLS acts as an emulsifier and preservative, extending shelf life and maintaining product quality.

Overall, the discovery of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate revolutionized the personal care and food industries, providing manufacturers with a versatile and effective ingredient to improve the performance of their products and enhance the user experience for consumers.

There are benefits to SLS

Cleaning Power: SLS effectively removes dirt, oil, and food particles from the surface, providing a thorough cleaning experience.

Foaming Action: The foaming action of SLS creates a sense of freshness and cleanliness, enhancing the overall user experience.

Preservation: In food products, SLS helps extend shelf life by preventing microbial growth and maintaining product quality.

There are Definitely Negative Effects on Oral Tissue and Canker Sores

Despite its benefits, SLS has been linked to various oral health issues, including irritation and inflammation of oral tissue. Prolonged exposure to SLS can disrupt the delicate balance of the oral microbiome, leading to increased sensitivity and a higher risk of developing canker sores and mouth ulcers. The abrasive nature of SLS can strip away the protective layer of the oral mucosa, leaving it vulnerable to irritation and discomfort.

Are there Alternative Ingredients and Products?

Fortunately, there are SLS-free alternatives available for those seeking gentler oral care options. Look for toothpaste formulations that contain natural ingredients such as:

Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate

Cocamidopropyl Betaine

Sodium Coco-Sulfate

Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate

Specific toothpaste that offer SLS-free options include:

1. Best Overall — Verve Ultra SLS-Free Toothpaste with Fluoride

This may be the best toothpaste for you if you suffer from canker sores or gum irritation. It’s formulated with sodium methyl cocoyl taurate to mimic the foaming properties of sodium lauryl sulfate.

Verve also contains fluoride to protect your tooth enamel. It is enriched with the antioxidant vitamin E.

Key features include:

  • SLS-free

  • Gluten-free

  • Non-irritating

  • Made in the USA

  • Contains fluoride to prevent tooth decay

  • Gentle whitening removes surface stains

  • Enriched with vitamin E

  • Vegan and not tested on animals

  • Soothing fresh mint flavor


Best for Sensitive Teeth — Sensodyne Pronamel Intensive Enamel Repair

Sensodyne is a well-known toothpaste brand popular among people with sensitive teeth. This SLS-free toothpaste is optimized for enamel remineralization to help naturally rebuild strong, healthy teeth.

Key features include:

  • SLS-free

  • Clean mint taste

  • Great for sensitive teeth

  • Helps strengthen weakened enamel


Best with Natural Ingredients — Boka Natural Toothpaste

This SLS-free toothpaste features nano-hydroxyapatite (n-HA), a common natural toothpaste ingredient in Japan. N-HA is a non-toxic ingredient that reduces tooth sensitivity. It also remineralizes enamel instead of fluoride.

N-HA is also 100% biocompatible. This means it won’t irritate people with sensitive skin and teeth.

Key features include:

  • SLS-free

  • Fluoride-free because it uses n-HA to remineralize teeth and prevent tooth decay

  • Reduces sensitivity

  • Whitens teeth

  • Minty fresh flavor

  • Made in the U.S.

  • Formulated with bacteria-fighting xylitol to prevent cavities

  • Enriched with soothing aloe vera and antioxidant-rich green tea

  • Non-toxic and free of chemicals (sulfates, parabens, artificial colors and flavors)


Best for Kids — Hello Kids Fluoride Toothpaste

Hello’s SLS-free toothpaste line includes fun flavors and colorful packaging that appeals to kids, but adults can use it, too. They use sodium cocoyl glutamate to create a foaming effect without adding SLS.

Hello’s kid-friendly toothpaste is available with or without fluoride. This particular toothpaste has fluoride. 

Fluoride helps build strong, healthy teeth. But too much of it can lead to fluorosis in children under 8. Talk to your dentist about how much fluoride your child needs.

Key features include:

  • SLS-free

  • Gluten-free

  • Vegan and not tested on animals

  • Made in the U.S.

  • Kid-friendly blue raspberry flavor with no artificial sweeteners or dyes

  • Contains fluoride to prevent cavities and remineralize enamel

  • BPA-free packaging


Best Fluoride Free + Whitening — Burt’s Bees Purely White Toothpaste

Burt’s Bees is a leader in natural, environmentally friendly personal care products. Their SLS-free, fluoride-free toothpaste is flavored with essential oils and crafted to whiten your smile.

Key features include:

  • SLS-free

  • Gluten-free

  • No preservatives

  • No artificial flavors or sweeteners

  • Zen peppermint flavor from essential oils fights bad breath

  • Crafted to help remove surface stains

  • Not tested on animals

  • Recyclable packaging 

Best Charcoal Toothpaste — Hello Activated Charcoal Toothpaste

Hello doesn’t only make toothpaste for kids — this formula is specifically for adults and children over 12. Like the kids version, this paste creates foam with sodium cocoyl glutamate instead of SLS.

This fluoride-free toothpaste contains natural ingredients like activated charcoal, tea tree oil, and coconut oil for clean teeth and fresh breath.

Key features include:

  • SLS-free

  • Fluoride-free

  • Gluten-free

  • Made without alcohol or parabens

  • No artificial sweeteners, flavors, or dyes

  • Vegan and never tested on animals

  • Made in the U.S.

  • Made with activated charcoal from sustainable bamboo to gently whiten teeth.


These alternatives provide effective cleaning power without the potential drawbacks of SLS, making them suitable for individuals prone to oral irritation and canker sores.

The Canker Spanker: Your Solution to SLS-Induced Canker Sores and Mouth Ulcers

For those experiencing mild to chronic canker sores and mouth ulcers caused by SLS, relief is within reach with The Canker Spanker. Formulated with pure ingredients to encourage healing from the inside out, The Canker Spanker offers fast and effective relief from oral discomfort, promoting healing and preventing future outbreaks. Say goodbye to SLS-induced oral woes and hello to a happier, healthier smile with The Canker Spanker.

While Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) serves a variety of purposes in toothpaste and foods, its potential to cause oral irritation and contribute to canker sores and mouth ulcers should not be overlooked. By opting for SLS-free alternatives and prioritizing gentle oral care practices, individuals can maintain optimal oral health without sacrificing comfort. Explore SLS-free options today and experience the difference in your smile.


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