The 7 best toothpastes for canker sores, according to a dental hygienist

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BySteven Rowe

When it comes to canker sores (also known as aphthous ulcers), Elizabeth Graves, a registered dental hygienist and founder of Take Home Smile, tells Mic: “Although you cannot speed up the healing process, you can avoid prolonging it.” According to Graves, the best toothpastes for canker sores are free from sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a synthetic detergent commonly found in toothpastes that might cause a flare-up if you’re prone to aphthous ulcers. Additionally, “toothpastes that have fewer chemicals and preservatives will help reduce canker sores,” Graves adds. With that in mind, all of the toothpastes below are free from SLS and two other potentially irritating ingredients Graves recommends avoiding: baking soda and charcoal.

When shopping for an SLS-free toothpaste, first decide if you’d prefer a fluoride or fluoride-free formula. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends toothpastes with fluoride to help strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay. But if you prefer non-fluoride options, a study has shown that remineralizing toothpastes containing hydroxyapatite are as effective as fluoride toothpastes. Similar to hydroxyapatite, dicalcium phosphate dihydrate has shown scientific potential when it comes to strengthening enamel. Lastly, several options below include xylitol, an artificial sweetener that helps block the growth of cavity-causing bacteria — but it’s scientifically inconclusive if xylitol is as effective as fluoride on its own.

Beyond toothpaste, a few additional things may help you prevent canker sores. Graves says, “Avoid acidic foods and maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, especially if you’re immunocompromised. Keeping stress levels low will also help.” And if you get frequent canker sores, Graves recommends consulting your medical doctor and dentist.

Below, these are the best toothpastes for canker sores in mint, non-mint, and flavor-free options to help prevent painful flare-ups and keep your teeth and gums healthy.


The fan-favorite toothpaste for sensitivity

  • Active ingredients: Sodium fluoride, potassium nitrate

If your teeth are sensitive to hot or cold temperatures, this Sensodyne toothpaste may help — and it’s backed by a near-perfect rating on Amazon after more than 10,000 reviews. It contains sodium fluoride and potassium nitrate (an ingredient that helps calm the nerves in the teeth) to strengthen tooth enamel, prevent decay, and soothe sensitivity. The SLS-free toothpaste comes in a fresh mint flavor, and each order includes two tubes.

One reviewer wrote: “This is my favorite toothpaste, by far the easiest on a sensitive mouth, and leaves me minty fresh. I ordered this one week when I had a canker sore and haven't turned back. It's the only toothpaste I'll use now.”


The fluoride-free toothpaste from an expert-recommended brand

  • Active ingredients: Xylitol, bee propolis extract
  • Fluoride-free

Graves calls Tom’s of Maine toothpaste “a great choice” to help prevent canker sores, and it’s formulated without SLS. The fluoride-free toothpaste contains xylitol to help prevent plaque buildup, and it gently removes surface stains to help brighten teeth, too. It also helps freshen the mouth with bee propolis extract, which has antibacterial properties, though it could cause an allergic reaction for some people.

In addition, the peppermint-flavored toothpaste is cruelty-free and made without artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. Plus, the toothpaste tube is recyclable when you’re done.

One reviewer wrote: “I used to get canker sores in my mouth monthly. The doctor told me I was eating too many acidic foods but reducing the foods did not help. I read an article that SLS could lead to mouth sores so I switched to this brand. I haven’t had a sore since and it’s been almost a year.”


The enamel-repairing toothpaste

  • Active ingredients: Hydroxyapatite
  • Fluoride-free

Made with hydroxyapatite, this fluoride-free remineralizing toothpaste can help rebuild tooth enamel, help with micro-cavities, and reduce sensitivity. It’s free from SLS and artificial flavors and colors, and it’s also vegan and cruelty-free. Plus, the toothpaste is backed by an overall 4.7-star rating after more than 8,000 reviews, and it’s flavored with a unique blend of mint, green tea, and cardamom.

One reviewer wrote: “Conventional toothpastes are too minty for me, and it’s difficult to find alternate flavors in grocery stores. Thought I would give this product a try and I’m glad I did. The mint is mild, just right for me, and it leaves my teeth feeling clean and smooth [...] My gumline sensitivity is nearly gone; if I eat something acidic it may come back a little, but after a day or two of regular brushing, it clears right up.”


The whitening fluoride toothpaste

  • Active ingredient: Sodium fluoride

If you want an SLS-free toothpaste that contains fluoride and helps whiten teeth, Verve Ultra is a highly rated option that’s gentle enough for everyday use. It’s also enriched with antioxidant vitamin E to help promote gum health. What’s more, the mint-flavored toothpaste is gluten-free and cruelty-free.

One reviewer wrote: “I have suffered from canker sores my whole life, so when I stumbled upon research about SLS being a possible cause, I decided to give Verve Ultra a try. I've used it for the past two months and haven't had any canker sores, which is great.”


The xylitol-fluoride toothpaste

  • Active ingredients: Xylitol, sodium fluoride

For additional defense against plaque buildup and cavities, Squigle toothpaste contains both xylitol and fluoride. And, to help you avoid canker sores, this toothpaste is free of SLS and harsh abrasives and bleaches that may irritate your teeth and gums. Plus, the toothpaste has a mild peppermint flavor and contains no artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and colors.

One reviewer wrote: “I'm prone to horrible canker sores. [...] I switched to Squigle several years ago and it literally changed my life. I still get the occasional sore but NOTHING like I used to. Sometimes I'll feel one coming but it never fully develops. The ones I do get are generally less painful and heal faster.”


The non-mint toothpaste

  • Active ingredients: Dicalcium phosphate dihydrate
  • Fluoride-free

If you’re looking for an alternative to minty toothpastes, Dr. Sheffield’s natural toothpaste is a popular option that comes in four non-mint flavors: chocolate, mixed berry, cinnamon, and strawberry banana. The SLS-free toothpaste contains remineralizing dicalcium phosphate dihydrate to help prevent tooth decay, and it’s free from artificial colors, preservatives, flavors, and sweeteners. It’s also certified by the Natural Products Association. Additionally, it is available in mint and peppermint flavors.

One reviewer wrote: “About a year or 2 ago I suddenly started getting frequent canker sores. [...] I was told to try a toothpaste without Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Dr. Sheffield’s was the least expensive option at my local CVS. I’ve been using it for about a year now and am on my fourth tube. I have had maybe one canker sore since starting on this toothpaste, it has truly helped!!”


The flavor-free toothpaste

  • Active ingredient: Xylitol
  • Fluoride-free

This natural toothpaste was designed with kids in mind, but it’s a highly rated pick for anyone who prefers a flavor-free option. The active ingredient is xylitol — so, while it’s unflavored, the toothpaste is slightly sweet. It’s also cruelty-free, vegan, and does not contain SLS or gluten.

One reviewer wrote: “If you or someone you know cannot handle the flavor of toothpaste, this is what you need! Good texture, as flavorless as it can be.”


Elizabeth Graves, a registered dental hygienist and founder of Take Home Smile

Studies referenced:

Barkvoll P. (1989). Må tannkremer skumme? Natriumlaurylsulfate--tannpastadetergent i fokus [Should toothpastes foam? Sodium lauryl sulfate--a toothpaste detergent in focus]. Den Norske tannlaegeforenings tidende, 99(3), 82–84.

Amaechi, B. T., AbdulAzees, P. A., Okoye, L. O., Meyer, F., & Enax, J. (2020). Comparison of hydroxyapatite and fluoride oral care gels for remineralization of initial caries: a pH-cycling study. BDJ open, 6, 9.

Meyer, F., Amaechi, B. T., Fabritius, H. O., & Enax, J. (2018). Overview of Calcium Phosphates used in Biomimetic Oral Care. The open dentistry journal, 12, 406–423.

Nayak, P. A., Nayak, U. A., & Khandelwal, V. (2014). The effect of xylitol on dental caries and oral flora. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dentistry, 6, 89–94.

Riley, P., Moore, D., Ahmed, F., Sharif, M., & Worthington, H. (2015). Xylitol-containing products for preventing dental caries in children and adults. Cochrane Database Of Systematic Reviews.

Więckiewicz, W., Miernik, M., Więckiewicz, M., & Morawiec, T. (2013). Does propolis help to maintain oral health?. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013, 351062.