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Things to Consider When Choosing Toothpaste During Cancer Treatments

Things to Consider When Choosing Toothpaste During Cancer Treatments

Updated November 13, 2019

Could your choice of toothpaste cause problems during cancer treatments? The answer is YES! Many popular brands of toothpaste contain ingredients that may potentially cause tissue irritation during cancer care. Those receiving chemotherapy or radiation to the head & neck region can experience very tender and inflamed tissue inside of the mouth and may develop mouth sores called Oral Mucositis. Choosing gentle toothpaste without harsh ingredients helps to minimize tissue inflammation and mouth sores.

What to look for:

Flavors                                                        

Be aware of harsh flavoring that can irritate oral tissue.  Cinnamon and sharp mint flavors may sting and feel painful. Flavors may also enhance nausea while receiving chemotherapy. Look for mild flavors or unflavored toothpaste.

Detergents                                                                                                             

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is a common ingredient in many types of toothpaste to thicken the texture and produce lather. According to Livestrong.com, "Both the University of Mary Washington and North Washington Health Sciences University warn that SLS attacks the mucus membranes in the mouth, altering the structure of the skin " and "According to the International Programme on Chemical Safety, sodium lauryl sulfate acts as a skin and eye irritant that may impact short and long-term health."  It has been linked to the development of canker sores, so it is best to avoid this detergent if you are susceptible to mouth sores.  Several sources also attribute SLS to accentuating Dry Mouth (xerostomia) symptoms.

Other detergents, such as Cocamidopropyl Betaine (CAPB,) and Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate (Gardol) have moderate hazard ratings from the Environmental Working Group.

Learn more about CAPB at Could Your Choice of Dry Mouth Toothpaste Cause Tissue Irritation?

Whitening and Tartar Control Agents

Whitening (Peroxide) ingredients and Tartar Control agents may also be too harsh for those who are at risk for developing oral mucositis and should be avoided.  According to the American Cancer Society, "...whitening toothpastes may contain hydrogen peroxide, which can irritate sore mouths." An article entitled "Toothpaste ingredients can lead to lesions" posted in RDH Magazine authored by Trisha E. O'Hehir, RDH stated, "Tartar-control toothpastes contain the anti-tartar chemical pyrophosphate, as well as flavoring agents which have been implicated in tissue sloughing and a burning sensation."  

Triclosan, is it worth the risk?                                                                                                                                   

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that is banned by the FDA in antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizers and cosmetics. It's use in toothpaste is still permitted and currently under review.  According to the FDA, "Some short-term animal studies have shown that exposure to high doses of triclosan is associated with a decrease in the levels of some thyroid hormones. But we don’t know the significance of those findings to human health." Other studies suggest that long-term use of products containing Triclosan can increase bacteria's resistance to antibiotics. The FDA states, " At this time, we don’t have enough information available to assess the level of risk that triclosan poses for the development of antibiotic resistance." Further studies are being conducted on the effects of triclosan, including the potential of developing cancer after long-term exposure.

Side Effect Support LLC is happy to offer toothpaste that does not contain these harsh ingredients. Learn more in our products section.

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