My girlfriend has told me that the varieties of toothpaste that are actually paste and have some granularity to them (as opposed to gel varieties) get rid of cold sores if applied early in the sore's appearance and regularly afterward.

I've tried it, and I must say it seems to work, at least faster than Carmex or even over the counter things from the pharmacy, and my google searching has yielded a few articles also claiming it works,



but I'm wondering if this really is something I can bank on.

To clarify, I am talking about the herpes lip blister variety, and I realize the condition is overall incurable. I'm not asking if toothpaste can cure the condition permanently, I'm just asking if it can make one individual outbreak dissipate faster.

Thanks in advance!


A cold sore is a blister that usually forms around the lips, and is typically caused by one strain of the herpes virus. There are topical applications that will speed healing, but toothpaste isn't one of them. Unfortunately there is currently no cure for herpes. Once you are infected, you are infected for life. Outbreaks of the virus (the formation of a blister) are typically triggered by stress.

Note that toothpaste does have a chemical in it that can damage the herpes virus (sodium lauryl sulfate), but it is only present in concentrations of 0.5% to 2%. Studies that have tested the use of SLS as a topical compound work with highly concentrated SLS.

Toothpaste won't affect cold sores.

Mostly by brain, but here are some sources that repeat most of what I've said:

1) Low concentration of SLS in toothpaste - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2696932
2) Study on the use of highly concentrated SLS to possibly prevent HIV and Herpes infections - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC86033/
3) Information about Herpes Simplex incurability, blister formation, stress triggers, and topical medications - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herpes_simplex

  • 2
    Welcome to Skeptics! Please provide some references to support your key claims: that there's not enough "chemicals" in toothpaste to damage the herpes virus; that toothpaste won't get rid of canker sores (in non-Sodium Laurel Sulfate sensitive people). Your reference that some people are sensitive makes the claim without citing evidence, so it needs to be replaced too. – Oddthinking May 25 '14 at 2:00
  • The question (and the links) clearly refers to cold sores, so I think the section on canker sores is not relevant. – user5582 May 25 '14 at 3:03
  • Hia Articuno. I put the stuff about canker sores in there because where I live people just call them all cold sores. The question didn't (in my mind) differientiate between the two. I also thought that anyone looking this question up might be wondering if brushing their canker sores would get rid of them (it won't), because some people think that canker sores form from your mouth being dirty. – Jason Walker May 27 '14 at 0:07
  • @JasonWalker, Btw, does this "herpes" virus has anything to do with the std/sti "herpes"? – Pacerier Aug 20 '15 at 22:28
  • Yes; they're closely related variants of herpes simplex virus, HSV-1 and -2, I think. – Nij Jun 18 '16 at 8:42

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