Can Charcoal Toothpaste Give You Canker Sores?

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Medically reviewed by Danielle Romatz, RDH

While many of us get tiny, fast-healing canker sores once or twice a year, a small portion of the population gets recurrent outbreaks of painful sores, especially after using certain toothpaste brands. So, can charcoal toothpaste cause canker sores?

Charcoal toothpaste can cause canker sores if it contains the ingredient Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). Toothpaste manufacturers use SLS to create foaming action when we brush our teeth. However, for some people, it can be irritating to the mouth’s soft tissues.

Let’s look at some other causes of canker sores along with a couple of treatment and prevention tips to ensure you never have to experience the painful sores again.

What Are Canker Sores?

Red and painful canker sore

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are tiny, shallow sores that emerge on the mouth’s soft tissues, such as inside the lips and cheeks, under the tongue, and at the base of your gums.

Canker sores are unlike cold sores, which are contagious. However, they are painful and make talking and eating tough. Most canker sores usually heal on their own after a week or two. 

It’s best to visit your doctor or dentist if you have especially large and painful canker sores that don’t seem to go away.

Causes of Canker Sores

The exact cause of canker sores still isn’t clear. Nevertheless, researchers suspect that possible triggers for canker sores include:

  • Minor injuries to your mouth from sports accidents, aggressive brushing, or dental work
  • Food sensitivities
  • Emotional stress
  • Diet lacking in iron, zinc, vitamin B-12, and folic acid
  • Toothpaste and mouthwash containing SLS
  • Allergic reactions to some bacteria in your mouth
  • Hormonal shifts during menstruation

Canker sores could also be caused by diseases and conditions such as:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis
  • A faulty immune system that attacks healthy mouth cells rather than pathogens like bacteria
  • Celiac disease caused by gluten sensitivity.

Can Charcoal Toothpaste Cause Canker Sores?

Charcoal toothpaste can cause canker sores if it contains SLS as one of its ingredients. SLS causes soft tissue irritation. 

It’s very important to read through and understand the various ingredients contained in a certain toothpaste before using it.

The toothpaste’s plastic tube is labeled with information on the ingredients it’s made out of so that if you experience any side effects from those ingredients, you can avoid using any products that also use them.

How to Treat and Prevent Canker Sores

Good oral hygiene begins every morning

Canker sores normally heal by themselves in a few days or some weeks.

If the sores don’t feel better after a week or keep reappearing, seek medical attention. The doctor may prescribe a special mouthwash, medicine, or home remedy to cure the sores.

If the doctor prescribes medicines that require direct application to the sores, you’ll first have to dry out the affected areas with a tissue, then soak a cotton swab with the medicine and gently rub it on the sores. Avoid eating or drinking for at least 30 minutes to ensure the medication doesn’t wash away.

You can prevent the frequent occurrence of canker sores by adhering to these tips:

  • Choose a healthy diet
  • Be careful about what you eat
  • Protect your mouth
  • Observe good oral hygiene
  • Reduce stress

You can also use an SLS-free toothpaste for your daily oral routine. Some toothpaste manufacturers use SLS because it has exceptional foaming and cleaning abilities, but it does more harm than good in some people.

SLS-free toothpaste options include The Natural Dentist (on Amazon), Hello Oral Care (on Amazon), and Lumineux (on Amazon).

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