What to Do When Your Toothpaste Backfires on You

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It may be rare and it may not happen to everyone, but there are some of us who can have reactions to toothpaste, leaving the skin around your mouth red and itchy. It’s not that every brand of toothpaste on the market will have an adverse effect and leave the corners of your mouth red, chapped and irritated, but those that contain harsh flavorings or ingredients like spearmint, menthol and peppermint, can. “Many toothpastes contain chemicals and compounds that can have side effects on the skin around the mouth. Not everyone is allergic or sensitive, but these synthetic ingredients can irritate the tissue and make the skin around the mouth uncomfortable,” says Houston cosmetic dentist Guy Lewis, DDS.

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“Tartar-control toothpastes can be just as irritating. They contain different enzymes to help decrease the buildup of tartar, but some of those enzymes can irritate the outer corners of the mouth and the skin around it, too.”

So what should you do if your toothpaste makes your skin red and reactive? Finding out which toothpastes can potentially cause this can be, unfortunately, a game of trial and error. “Many toothpastes are foaming and give you the sense that you’re really cleansing your teeth (while also freshening your breath), but you don’t always have to use just toothpaste to get your teeth clean,” says Dr. Lewis. “You can use special rinses that have fluoride and xylitol in them, like TheraSol Rinse, and brush with baking soda and water as long as you don’t have veneers (the combination is too abrasive for them).” Natural toothpastes, like Dr. Sharp Fresh Mint Green Tea Toothpaste ($7), that use botanical extracts are a gentler option, too. 

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