Why your toothpaste could be giving you this hidden annoying reaction

Have you ever been talking to someone and noticed white gunk building in the corners of their mouth? Or have you had it yourself and wondered "What the hell is going on here?" You could be having an allergic reaction to something that you didn't even know

In my practice as an Oral Health Therapist I see this allergic reaction quite often, but rarely do my patients know what it can mean. It’s not uncommon for even some oral health professionals to be unaware of this common allergic reaction either!

Why is the skin peeling inside of my mouth?

There are various ailments that can cause the soft tissue (skin) in your mouth to peel, so it’s important to rule out any nasties that may be present, but one of the most common causes is irritation to Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS). SLS is commonly found in most toothpastes and loads of other products in your home. If you have a sensitivity or mild allergy to this common ingredient, the thin skin lining (mucosa) of your mouth can peel away, much like your skin after you've had some sunburn. The peeling skin is usually painless and whitish/grey in colour. It’s usually found in either the cheeks or the floor of the mouth, under the tongue. If you’re unsure whether or not you have this reaction, look inside of your mouth, at the lining of your cheeks and see if you can see white skin peeling away.

Although it is usually painless, some people experience significant discomfort and even a burning sensation, that is worse after eating spicy or hot foods."

What is Sodium Lauryl Sulphate?

Sodium lauryl sulphate is a common foaming agent used in all kinds of products that typically “foam”, like shampoos, body washes, facial cleansers, toothpastes, dishwashing liquid, clothes detergents and loads more products commonly used around your home and workplace. Just like almost everything in the world, if you are exposed to something frequently enough or in high doses, there is a potential to develop an allergic reaction, or sensitivity. SLS is no different, in fact some studies have put the percentage of the population that is sensitive to SLS as high as 42%!

So, what to do if you have this peeling?

Well, generally it’s more annoying than harmful, as it’s not listed as a carcinogenic agent and is non toxic. Sometimes my patients report that it is sometimes mildly itchy, but most of the time people are completely unaware of it. So if it doesn’t bother you, carry on as normal. However, if it does annoy you, you can change to a SLS free toothpaste such as Pronamel, Sensodyne or MooGoo. There are loads of “natural” or herbal toothpastes that don’t contain SLS, but they also don’t contain fluoride and I am a MASSIVE advocate for fluoride, so I obviously don’t recommend any of those toothpastes.

Can children have SLS Toothpaste?

When introducing toothpastes to children, it's always best to start with a fluoride and SLS-free paste, like Colgate's My First Fluoride Free toothpaste, which is free of preservatives and artificial colors. It's also best to talk to your dentist, who knows your medical history and has your best interest in mind, to help you decide what is right for you. As they get older, you can introduce them to fluoride toothpastes, which are very low in SLS. Don’t forget, oral health professionals don’t recommend fluoride toothpaste for children under the age of 2 (because they swallow most of it) and always use an age appropriate toothpaste for your child. Once your child reaches the age of 6, they should be using a full strength fluoride toothpaste. Keep an eye out for skin peeling in the cheeks, although in my experience, I see SLS irritations very rarely in young children.

Remember, this is general advice ONLY. If you or someone you know is experiencing oral peeling, you need to have it checked by a registered dental professional, like the brilliant team at Kensington Dental Care

Hope this helps in your quest for those peeling mouth questions. If you’ve had this symptom but didn’t know what it was caused from, let me know below.

Love you all, Dee