When your immune system overreacts to a usually harmless substance, such as a food, medicine or fragrance, you have an allergy to that substance. As the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America notes, allergies are some of the most commonly occurring chronic conditions. While you might hear about food allergies, pollen allergies or drug allergies often, you might not hear about a toothpaste allergy all that much. While it's not that common, it can occur, which is why it's important to know what to look for.
Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Toothpaste
If you're allergic to toothpaste, you're probably not going to develop a case of the sniffles each time you brush your teeth. The signs of a toothpaste allergy can vary based on what ingredients you're allergic to and how severe your reaction is.
One sign of a toothpaste allergy is a severe form of chapped lips, known as cheilitis. A review of reports of an allergic reaction to toothpaste, published in Dermatitis, found that cheilitis was the most commonly reported allergic reaction. It could also be accompanied by a rash around the mouth. An allergic reaction occurring inside the mouth was less common.
A paper published in Contact Dermatitis outlined the experience of a 35-year-old woman who had severely chapped lips and cheilitis for nine months. The doctors who examined her noted that her symptoms vanished when she changed toothpastes.
Potential Allergens in Toothpaste
Toothpastes can contain a number of potential allergens. These include gluten, fluoride, fragrances and flavorings. Dermatitis noted that in the past, cinnamon derivatives were a common cause of allergic reactions to toothpaste. Another paper in the journal Dermatitis examined the role cinnamic aldehyde played in causing intraoral allergic contact dermatitis.
In the case of the young woman published in Contact Dermatitis, patch testing revealed that she had a reaction to the toothpaste itself, as well as to olaflur, a type of fluoride found in the toothpaste brand she used.
What to Do If You Think You're Allergic to Your Toothpaste
If you've developed severely irritated and chapped lips or a rash around your mouth, and you think your toothpaste is to blame, the first thing to do is stop using that toothpaste. You can try switching to a new variety or brand and see if your symptoms resolve.
It's also a good idea to see your dentist or doctor. A medical professional can perform an allergy test to determine if you're allergic to the toothpaste. If the ingredients in the toothpaste are known, your doctor or dentist can test individual ingredients to further narrow down your toothpaste allergy. As the review published in Dermatitis noted, it's important to run a second test if the first one confirms an allergy to the toothpaste. That way, you can identify the specific allergen and learn to avoid it in the future.
If it does turn out that you are allergic to an ingredient in your toothpaste, the good news is that there are plenty of toothpastes out there that you can switch to. Fluoride-free varieties are available if you end up being allergic to a form of fluoride used in toothpaste. If you're allergic to cinnamon flavoring, you can try switching to a mint flavored toothpaste, such as Colgate Total Clean Mint. Its great mint taste leaves your mouth clean and fresh.
A toothpaste allergy doesn't have to get in the way of having great oral hygiene. Once you know what you're allergic to, you know what to look for – and what to avoid – when you're browsing the oral care aisle.