Remember doctors’ Hippocratic oath, “First do no harm?” We should all embrace that declaration when it comes to our own health because even our simplest choices may undermine it. Case in point: Toothpaste, a seemingly innocuous product, may actually cause lesions, such as angular cheilitis, well, at least indirectly.

Is your mouth agape when hearing this news? It may come as a surprise that toothpaste can actually present a problem despite its promise to freshen our breath, help make our teeth whiter, and even get stains and tartar off. Oh yes, it’s flavors offer appeal, its ease of application is appealing, but lurking beneath it’s grainy, solid mass are ingredients that just may be strong enough to contribute to perleche.

Perhaps the most potentially deleterious ingredient is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). This detergent, surfactant, and emulsifier, although derived from coconuts, is far from ‘natural.’ In fact, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) classifies SLS as a toxic agent, contributing to health maladies, supported by many studies.

Now SLS-related irritation may be the least of the issues that arise with its use. Indeed, SLS has even been linked to hormone level fluctuations, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and a variety of other alarming health concerns, including a connection to cancer.

But don’t let your imagination run wild as the amount/concentration of SLS in toothpaste is rather modest. On the other hand, cumulative damage can take place, and unfortunately, SLS is not only present in toothpaste but hundreds, if not thousands, of personal care products. It can be absorbed through the skin and is then difficult to metabolize. Residuals amounts of SLS rise in the body which can present long-term ill-effects.

Of course, there are those who poo-poo the notion of SLS danger, citing that studies have been conducted with SLS alone and not on any particular products containing it. They may also aver that so much depends on the actual cumulative levels found in the body and individual sensitivity to the substance.

But at present, there is more of a consensus that SLS in toothpaste can definitely cause lip irritation which may make one more susceptible to a fungal or bacterial onslaught. Please don’t misconstrue the message: Toothpaste may not directly cause angular cheilitis but it’s use may make perleche even more likely to occur.

Let’s take a quick look at other possible problematic ingredients in toothpaste. Let’s consider, for example, dicalcium phosphate dehydrate, an abrasive agent, for example. It, too, is a possible skin irritant, especially those who have a sensitivity to it or are even allergic to it. It can lead to a bout of contact dermatitis, and again, make one more susceptible to angular cheilitis.

Tetrasodium pyrophosphate, found in many anti-tartar toothpaste brands, has also been linked to mouth irritation for some. Sodium saccharin, providing the sweetness of toothpaste, may also be deemed a mouth-unfriendly ingredient as it can be broken down by bacteria in your mouth into acids that contribute to decay … in the mouth and perhaps around it.

In summary, the purpose of placing a spotlight on toothpaste is not to implicate it for causing angular cheilitis, but to suggest that its ingredients may indirectly contribute to its formation or its ‘staying power.’

As a result, we recommend using natural toothpastes (and all other personal care products), that are free of as many chemicals as possible, especially SLS. You may just find that using the right toothpaste can lead to healthier lips, free of angular cheilitis.

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