Paste or powder?

Toothpaste and tooth powder in front of their boxesAs 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. this!

10 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Andy said,

    September 15, 2008 @ 10:14 pm

    I used baking soda for a few months. It worked just as well as toothpaste, and didn’t actually taste all that bad. I switched back to Toms because I think I need the fluoride and I don’t get it any other way.

  2. 2

    Linnea said,

    September 15, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

    Brushing your tongue (as opposed to just your teeth) might help with bad breath. I get canker sores every once in a while as well… Does something like ACT have SLS? I have to use fluoride products at least until my retainers come out. At the moment I’d rather have canker sores than soft enamel, but I’d be interested in your results.

  3. 3

    lauren said,

    September 15, 2008 @ 11:23 pm

    Tom’s has a line of SLS-free toothpaste now. It tastes a little different, but it’s not too bad.

  4. 4

    John Borwick said,

    September 16, 2008 @ 10:34 pm

    For what it’s worth, once you have the canker sore you can put alum (the spice) on it. The canker sore will become numb once you have endured the searing pain of applying the alum.

    In all seriousness I do this when I have a canker sore.

  5. 5

    Will said,

    September 17, 2008 @ 9:42 pm

    Andy: I might try just baking soda once we use up the tooth powder.

    Linnea: I don’t know. Every toothpaste at the CVS had SLS as did most of the toothpastes at Whole Foods.

    lauren: Cool, I’ll have to keep an eye out for it. I guess the Tom’s they had at the Whole Foods were the older kind.

    John: Thanks for the tip! I’ll try that next time. Better a moment of searing pain than pain every time I want to eat (or talk).

  6. 6

    Alder said,

    September 18, 2008 @ 1:53 am

    When I get a canker sore, I put baking soda on it– it hurts, but it makes it heal way faster. I also use toothpaste with baking soda in it, which I think helps prevent them.

  7. 7

    Ted said,

    September 18, 2008 @ 10:02 am

    I’m of the ‘if it doesn’t hurt, it can’t be working’ persuasion. For a long time, we had some 150 proof rum and I would apply that to canker sores.

  8. 8

    Anya said,

    September 18, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

    Will – I appreciate that info on SLS causing canker sores as I did not know that! I think I’ll switch to Ipsab:) By the way, thanks for talking about Ipsab – it is indeed a very effective tooth powder and we now have cinnamon flavor too. I want you to know that there is no magic or negative aspect to an Edgar Cayce formula, most of the 9,000 physical readings he gave were very practical natural suggestions that are now the basis for modern holistic health. As someone with a Master’s in Wellness Education, who has used many of these suggestions including castor oil packs, aura glow lotion, Mother Earth’s Respiratory Tonic, saffron tea, etc., ( I and millions of others can vouch for their efficacy and safety.
    My very best to you.

  9. 9

    Relieved from Pain said,

    November 4, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

    Here’s something that takes away pain from canker sores and heals them faster than anything else. I’ve had bad canker sores’ pain subside by 40-50% overnight and start to heal. It’s cheap, over the counter, natural, and you have got to try it if you’re serious about stopping pain during their formation or getting rid of them.

    Buy Zinc tablets. Crush a zinc tabletl between two spoons. Grind, grind, grind back and forth. Or use a mortar if you have one to keep some ground for later in a container.

    Next wash your hands, poor a half a cc (cubic centimeter) of powder in your hand. Drip just a few drops of water until you can make a paste. This is the tricky part … don’t add anything else to make it more pasty (the problem is it becomes too runny or brittle). Spread it over the sore.

    It will feel like needles and afterward numb and swollen. Sleep on it, and do it before or after a meal. Beats any meds I’ve tried. You can feel the zinc just destroying the virus, blood rushing to the area, and since I’m a public speaker I know it takes away pain from dreadful sores and heals them because it lets me talk.

  10. 10

    Making tooth powder | said,

    December 3, 2008 @ 2:47 pm

    […] been almost 3 months since I switched from tooth paste to tooth powder, which seems like a good time for an […]

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