As long as I can remember, I’ve always had intermittent trouble with canker sores. I’d never get more than one at a time, but they tended to cluster so that as soon as one healed I’d get another. Then, I’d go months or years without another. They were usually along the inside of my cheeks, although sometimes they’d appear on the inner surface my lower lip. They never hurt much and they always went away, so I didn’t think much about them.
Then, last month, I got a canker sore on my tongue. It was extremely painful and made eating difficult. It was so much worse than previous ones that I thought it was something completely different at first. Luckily, it cleared up in less than a week, so I didn’t waste time going to the doctor.
I did have plenty of time to check out research online, though. Unfortunately, canker sores are like pimples or hangnails. Nobody’s sure what causes them, but there seem to be a million different theories. Unlike the others, though, there’s one major possible cause of canker sores: sodium lauryl sulfate.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a foaming agent often used in detergents, shampoos, and even bubble bath. More important to me is that SLS is used in most toothpastes to make them froth. We’re visiting my parents, so I took this opportunity to visit their local Whole Foods to find a toothpaste without SLS (all the major brands, including Tom’s of Maine, use SLS).
We ended up with two very different types. A third, J/A/S/O/N, had so many ingredients that I didn’t feel comfortable using it. The first type is a normal toothpaste that contains peelu fibers, apparently gathered from some Indian tree. The other, more interesting option, is Ipsab tooth powder.
My dad remembers using tooth powder as a kid, but I’d never heard of it. It looks (and tastes) a bit like table salt. You just pour a little bit on your toothbrush, add a little water, and brush like normal. It’s hard to say exactly, but I think that I use less tooth powder than toothpaste by volume, so I think the 4oz bottle will outlast the 6oz toothpaste. I assume that, since it’s not a liquid, you can take it on planes too, which is nice.
It’s too soon to tell about canker sores, but the tooth powder certainly seems to clean my teeth well. On the other hand, there’s no strong flavor associated with it, so it doesn’t do much for bad breath. I’m also a bit worried that this brand is based on the psychic advice of Edgar Cayce.
The peelu toothpaste doesn’t have a strong smell, but does have a strong taste (of peelu, I assume). My teeth don’t feel as clean after using it, but I can’t tell if it’s because it cleans less well or because I rush through brushing because it tastes so bad.
Both tooth cleaners foam enough for me, so I’m not sure why SLS is so common. Neither have fluoride, but I think I get enough of that from all of the tap water that I drink (I am perhaps the most hydrated man alive).
Overall, I think we’ll leave the peelu toothpaste with my parents and use the tooth powder until we run out. At that point, I’ll try looking for something a little better that still won’t aggravate my cankers.