What Is SLS, and Why Use SLS Free Toothpaste?

Why Use SLS Free Toothpaste

Every ingredient in toothpaste serves a particular purpose, but it’s always possible that one additive or another might cause some discomfort or even an allergic reaction in certain people. This is the case with sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, which we’ve seen cause problems for some of our patients at My Family Dentistry. 

Dr. Mullins made this video to explain why:

Many toothpaste manufacturers add SLS to their products as a surfactant—it helps toothpaste foam up and create lather. There’s not really a benefit to your oral health from lathery toothpaste, however. It’s really just there so you feel like it’s working.

Since SLS is only added to toothpaste as a foaming agent, you can clean your mouth just as well if you switch to SLS free toothpaste. If your current toothpaste is irritating your gums and mouth, making the switch is well worth it to find out if SLS free toothpaste could fix your problem.

We recommend switching to SLS free toothpaste if you’re experiencing one or more of the following problems:

  • Tissue sloughing. This means that the skin of your inner cheeks or lips is peeling a bit, resulting in an irritated, burning sensation. SLS sensitivity is a common cause, so if you have these symptoms after brushing you should consider switching toothpastes.
  • Canker sores. SLS does not typically cause canker sores on its own, but those who are prone to canker sores may develop worse symptoms when using toothpaste with SLS. Using an SLS free toothpaste, avoiding excessive sun exposure, and reducing stress are good ways to reduce canker sores.
  • Dry mouth and bad breath. Because SLS can contribute to dry mouth, avoiding SLS often helps alleviate this common problem. Dry mouth also tends to worsen bad breath, since it throws off the delicate balance of bacteria in the mouth. 

Thankfully, it’s easy to find brands of SLS free toothpaste at any typical pharmacy or grocery store. You can check ingredient labels for sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium dodecyl sulfate, another name for the chemical compound. We also recommend the following SLS free brands that we have already identified:

  • Biotene
  • Therabreath
  • Kiss My Face

There are other toothpaste varieties without SLS, such as but those are three brands that never use it. Other options include Tom’s of Maine toothpastes Clean & Gentle and Botanically Bright (but not most Tom’s of Maine products), and some of the varieties from Sensodyne, like their gel toothpaste. Feel free to let us know if you find another SLS free toothpaste that you enjoy so we can recommend it to other My Family Dentistry patients!

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