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About SLS

It’s spicy!

How many times have you heard that toothpaste is too spicy? It burns, and therefore your LO can’t possibly be expected to brush their teeth today? Yeah pull the other one, and please brush your teeth, I’m tired and I need to lay down in a dark quiet room. 

Like most parents, you’re probably assuming that this is the latest, in a long line of excuses to avoid brushing, BUT the chances are, they are probably not lying about this one. 

Toothpaste refusal is pretty common, and many patients I speak to complain of this issue. You’ve probably tried every flavour, thinking that the mint is the issue and now you have around 19 tubes of toothpaste in your bathroom, with every flavour you can possibly imagine. So what is actually going on here? 


Most of the time the reason is an ingredient called SLS or sodium lauryl sulfate. It has two purposes in toothpaste

  1. It makes your toothpaste foamy, which we have all become accustomed to and associate with a clean feeling. 
  2. It reduces surface tension, which is a fancy way of saying it helps clean your teeth. 

BUT, most children are sensitive to this ingredient, and when you put it in their mouth via their toothpaste their delicate oral mucosa feels like it’s burning! I believe that most adults are used to this “fresh” feeling and crave it to make their mouth feel clean, but children haven’t been conditioned to like this feeling yet so they just say NO!

The solution is simple. Choose a toothpaste without SLS. I’ve put a handy table of current toothpastes (correct as of September 2023) together to help.

Flavour side note

I have a big issue with toothpaste that tastes like food. 

  1. You can’t reasonably expect any child, especially ones that don’t understand the concept of spitting on purpose yet (not reliably until 3 years) to grasp the concept that you can and should swallow food that tastes like food, but NOT toothpaste that tastes like food. 
  2. Some children LOVE the taste of their toothpaste because it tastes of ICE CREAM, or STRAWBERRY or some other delicious flavor, and they eat it, and then just ask “more please” at which point you willingly oblige because “thank the lord above they are brushing their damn teeth today”
  3. All of this can easily result in your child eating toothpaste. This is NOT how toothpaste should be used. Now, let’s be clear, swallowing a little bit of toothpaste is unlikely to cause an issue. BUT the benefit of toothpaste is best when your teeth are covered in it, NOT when you swallow it. So, let’s just try and avoid swallowing toothpaste please. 
  4. Most neurodivergent children prefer flavourless toothpaste, as the SLS burn, plus the flavour can be over stimulating for them, so you can experiment with these flavourless ones. 

SLS Free toothpastes with the correct level of Fluoride for each age group


Fluoride level

Toothpaste with Flavour

Flavourless toothpaste

0-3 years 

1000 ppm 

Zendium kids 0-5 

  • has 1000ppm so is suitable for children under 3 years bur not for children over 3 as the label suggests. 
  • Red fruit flavour. 

Brushbaby applemint toothpaste 

  • Has 1000ppm, so suitable for children from birth until they turn 3. 
  • Also free from Gluten, Dairy, Soya, Palm Oil, Parabens 
  • Also contains xylitol which can inhibit the growth of harmful oral bacteria

OraNurse Unflavoured Toothpaste 

  • 1000ppm

3+ years

1450 ppm

Sensodyne Full Protection Toothpaste

  • 1450ppm 
  • SLS free
  • Mint flavour (which is aimed at adults so will be rejected by children that dislike strong mint flavours)

Sensiteeth Epismalto Toothpaste

  • 1450ppm
  • Gluten, , aromatic allergens, SLS, soap, colour free
  • strawberry flavour
  • Scores 100/100 on the Yuka app (which is pretty rare for toothpaste!)

Unfortunately this toothpaste is the best one I’ve found for this category but is £9.50 + £7.99 delivery + import taxes! 

OraNurse Unflavoured Toothpaste 

  • 1450ppm 

Please be aware, there are hundreds of toothpastes on the market, and when I search for them, there is often a reason I wouldn’t recommend them. You have to choose what is right for you and your child. I would always try and prioritise Fluoride level but you may have to compromise on this if your child refuses. 

Sadly the brushbaby toothpaste no longer comes in 1450ppm, only 1350ppm but they have a wide selection of flavours available so this may be a reasonable compromise. Their brand is excellent and not only contains xylitol which helps inhibit bacteria that cause dental decay but they are free of lots of other nasties that are usually found in toothpastes.

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