Since sodium lauryl sulfate is an ingredient that causes hygiene products to foam, it’s commonly found in toothpaste. While studies have shown it to not be toxic to humans in low enough amounts, sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS, may do you more harm than good — and the best SLS-free toothpastes skip out on the ingredient. To find out more about what makes an ideal SLS-free toothpaste, Bustle reached out to San Francisco-based dentists Diana Nguyen, DDS, and Sanna Charlie, DDS.
Sanna Charlie, DDS, is a San Francisco-based general restorative dentist and an assistant clinical professor for the Preventative and Restorative Dental Sciences at UCSF School of Dentistry. She is also the owner of Define Dentistry, a dental clinic based in Livermore, California. She received her Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree at Meharry Medical College and completed an Advanced Education in General Dentistry at the University of San Francisco.
Diana Nguyen, DDS, is a San Francisco-based general dentist and an assistant clinical professor, and the interim division chair for Clinical General Dentistry at UCSF School of Dentistry. She received her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from New York University and completed her general practice residency at the Yale University School of Medicine.
What Criteria To Consider When Shopping For SLS-Free Toothpastes
When deciding between one SLS-free toothpaste and another, keep your specific needs in mind, as recommended by your dentist.
If you like the foaming feeling that SLS provides, Dr. Charlie mentions four ingredients that can mimic the effect: coco-glucoside, decyl glucoside, sodium cocoyl glutamate, and sodium methyl cocoyl taurate. On this list, you’ll find that the majority of the SLS-free toothpastes contain either sodium cocoyl glutamate or sodium methyl cocoyl taurate.
Fluoride Or Fluoride-Free
On this list, you’ll find several toothpastes that contain fluoride. Dr. Nyugen writes, “Fluoride has been scientifically proven to safely and effectively strengthen teeth, prevent cavities, remineralize weakened enamel, and reverse the early signs of tooth decay.” But, as Dr. Charlie points out, some people are allergic to fluoride. Or your dentist may even recommend a non-fluoride toothpaste for another reason, even if you aren’t allergic.
If you’re looking for toothpaste without fluoride but still want ample protection against cavities, a study has shown that a toothpaste containing nanohydroxyapatite, or nano-HAP, could be a suitable alternative to an option with fluoride.
As you shop, you may also come across “natural” toothpastes that skip out on fluoride and incorporate antibacterial essential oils and botanical ingredients (such as bee propolis, which is a natural ingredient that one study has shown can reduce plaque). Dr. Nguyen explains that “the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity of some toothpastes that contain botanical ingredients could benefit patients who are unable to use regular toothpaste” — but she also adds that “more in-depth studies would be needed to determine their long-term safety and efficacy.” Dr. Nguyen also “would encourage patients to exercise caution” against formulas made with antibacterial essential oils because they could “wipe out the good bacteria in your mouth responsible for keeping your gums and teeth healthy.” In any case, it’s important to work with your dentist to find the best option for your specific needs.
Shop The Best SLS-Free Toothpastes
In a hurry? Here are the best SLS-free toothpastes:
- The Best Overall, All Things Considered: Verve Ultra SLS-Free Toothpaste With Fluoride
- The Fan-Favorite Toothpaste For Sensitive Teeth: Sensodyne Pronamel Intensive Enamel Repair Toothpaste
- An SLS-Free Toothpaste For Kids: hello Fluoride Kids Toothpaste
- An SLS-Free Toothpaste With A Fluoride Alternative: Davids Nano Hydroxyapatite Natural Toothpaste, Peppermint
- A Natural Toothpaste That’s Free Of SLS & Fluoride: Tom's Of Maine Botanically Bright Whitening Toothpaste
Below you’ll find the best SLS-free toothpastes available on Amazon. Always keep in mind that the type of toothpaste you use is just one factor among many in ensuring how clean your teeth are — Dr. Nyugen explains, “it’s just as important to consider the brushing technique, type of toothbrush being used, and how long a person actually spends brushing, flossing, and rinsing every day.” And don’t forget to consult your dentist if you have any concerns about your oral health.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Use An SLS-Free Toothpaste?
Toothpaste containing SLS might not be toxic to humans, but it can cause negative effects in some people. “SLS has been linked to irritation of the gum tissue, teeth, and tongue in some patients,” according to Dr. Nguyen. “If a patient experiences a persistent tingling or burning sensation in their mouth, they should try switching to an SLS-free toothpaste to see if that resolves the problem.” Dr. Nguyen adds, “For patients who frequently suffer from recurrent aphthous stomatitis, also known as canker sores, SLS-free toothpaste can help reduce the pain, frequency, and duration of these sores.”
Will Using An SLS-Free Toothpaste Affect How Clean Your Teeth Are?
SLS doesn’t play an active role in keeping your teeth clean, so opting for toothpaste without it shouldn’t have any serious repercussions on your dental health. According to Dr. Nguyen: “While SLS-free toothpastes may lack the foaming properties of regular toothpaste that help to remove debris from tooth surfaces, that doesn’t mean they can’t be effective.” Dr. Nguyen says that, on the contrary, “there is evidence that SLS can make it harder for fluoride to be absorbed by tooth enamel, making it harder for your teeth to benefit from fluoride’s anticavity properties.”
Diana Nguyen, D.D.S., general dentist and assistant clinical professor at UCSF School of Dentistry
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Bhat, N., Bapat, S., Asawa, K., Tak, M., Chaturvedi, P., Gupta, V., George, P. (2015). The antiplaque efficacy of propolis-based herbal toothpaste: A crossover clinical study, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4518411/
Pepla, E., Besharat, L., Palaia, G., Tenore, G., Migliau, G. (2014). Nano-hydroxyapatite and its applications in preventive, restorative and regenerative dentistry: a review of literature, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4252862/
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