What Is Sulfate-Free Toothpaste?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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Sulfate-free toothpaste is an oral care product that does not contain the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate. This added ingredient can be potentially harmful and irritating to individuals who suffer from certain mouth related ailments, such as dry mouth and canker sores. Toothpaste that does not contain this can still help fight cavities, freshen breath, and prevent gingivitis.

Sodium lauryl sulfate, when added to liquids, can create a foaming effect. It is frequently used in many brands of shampoo, body soap, dish and clothing detergent, and toothpaste. This ingredient alone does not have any cleansing powers for the teeth, nor does it improve tooth enamel or surface hardness of the teeth. Its sole purpose is to create a foam in the mouth which many users associate with the cleaning action.

Negative side effects of sodium lauryl sulfate can include an increased risk for canker sores and bad breath. While sodium lauryl sulfate is not the root cause of canker sores, it can exacerbate already troubled and damaged areas of the mouth. Individuals who are prone to multiple such sores throughout the year may find that using a sulfate-free toothpaste can improve the length of time required to heal such an area, and can discourage the reappearance of future sores.


Individuals who suffer from chronic dry mouth can also benefit from using a sulfate-free toothpaste. Chronic dry mouth may be experienced by those who physically produce a sub-normal amount of saliva, regularly take allergy and sinus medications, or who may have difficulty breathing through the night, such as those with sleep apnea, and require a sleep breathing aid. Sodium lauryl sulfate also decreases the amount of saliva present in the mouth, which creates a breeding ground for certain types of bacteria. These bacteria, as they multiply, produce sulfur as a natural byproduct, which leads to bad breath.

Sulfate-free toothpaste is often labeled as "natural" or "SLS free" to indicate the lack of this potentially irritating ingredient. Consumers should carefully read the ingredients label before purchasing this type of toothpaste, and may also wish to speak with their dental health care professional. Many sulfate-free toothpastes still contain fluoride, to help prevent cavities and strengthen tooth enamel, as well as help to remove stains and freshen breath. Toothpastes which claim to be made from only natural ingredients may contain high amounts of baking sodium and hydrogen peroxide, which can cause severe tooth sensitivity when used over a long period of time.


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