Toothpaste: Is It Effective For A Cold Sore?

Most people notice when a cold sore is forming on their lips. They may feel a tingling or itching where the cold sore is appearing. When this happens, people start looking for remedies to help mitigate symptoms. One remedy that keeps coming up is toothpaste.

When you notice a cold sore appearing on your lips, it could be the reactivation of the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1). HSV-1 is responsible for cold sores, and there’s a possibility that a chemical in toothpaste may suppress it.

While this method may work for some individuals, toothpaste is made with various ingredients that can irritate the affected area and worsen cold sores, prolonging the healing time. Ultimately, there's no clinical research to support the claim that toothpaste is effective for cold sores.

Have you considered clinical trials for Cold sores?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Cold sores, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What are cold sores?

Cold sores are lesions near or inside the mouth caused by HSV-1. They are also known as fever blisters and can develop on the cheek, chin, or inside nose. Over 67% of individuals worldwide have the virus. Cold sores can be painful, embarrassing, and annoying.¹

What do the cold sore stages look like?

A cold sore develops in five stages and lasts between 1–2 weeks.

Stage 1

An unexplained itching, tingling, or burning sensation shows that a cold sore is coming on. Treating it at this stage can block or prevent it from appearing.

Stage 2

A fluid-filled blister will develop about a day or two after the initial symptoms. The blisters can appear on the skin's surface, inside the mount, or on it.

Stage 3

At this stage, the blister will burst and release its fluid. This occurs around the fourth day, and it can be painful.

Stage 4

The cold sore will dry up and appear brown or yellow. This is the beginning of the crusting stage.

Stage 5

The healing stage is the final stage of the cold sore. At this stage, the crusted blister scabs over.

What causes cold sores?

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus 1. It is mainly transmitted through contact with saliva, sores, or surfaces around or inside the mouth. Although less common, the virus can be transmitted to the genital area via oral-genital contact, causing genital herpes.

Symptoms of cold sores

A tingling or burning sensation on your face or lips shows that a cold sore is coming up. You may experience the following symptoms during a cold sore outbreak:

  • Muscle aches

  • Fever

  • Swollen lymph nodes

After contracting the HSV-1, your first cold sore may not appear for about 20 days after exposure to the virus.

What happens when you pop a cold sore?

A cold sore will often disappear without leaving a scar if you leave it to heal. But interrupting the healing process can lead to many issues, such as:

  • New infections

  • More cold sores

  • Pain

  • Scarring

It's better not to pop a cold sore if your immune system is compromised due to medical treatment or an underlying condition.

What to do instead

Instead of popping a cold sore, you can do the following: 

  • Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever

  • Avoid spicy or acidic food

  • Apply an OTC antiviral cold sore medication

  • Use lip balm

  • Apply ice or a wet, cold towel

  • Wash your hands

  • Get a prescription for antiviral medication

These tips will help speed up the healing process.

What are home remedies?

Some home remedies can help calm or shorten the duration of a cold sore flare-up. These include:

  • Lemon balm

  • Aloe vera

  • Stress reduction

  • Sunscreen

  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen

  • Ice

Try the listed home remedies since they may help treat or prevent cold sore flare-ups.

Can I use toothpaste for cold sores?

You can use toothpaste for cold sores that have not yet come up completely. Toothpaste can help prevent cold sores from developing into painful and nasty sores. 

This method may work for some people. However, a variety of ingredients make up toothpaste, and they could end up making cold sores even worse, ultimately prolonging the healing time.

When is the right time to use toothpaste?

It's better to apply the toothpaste every 1–2 hours during the day or at night before you sleep. This technique could help dry out cold sore blisters.

How do I know if my toothpaste is safe?

Some toothpaste contains sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), an ingredient believed to curb cold sore blisters. So check for this before buying your toothpaste for cold sores.

Does toothpaste or hydrogen peroxide help?

There's no scientific evidence to prove that toothpaste can cure cold sores. All claims are anecdotal, as researchers are yet to conduct any studies. Hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant that may aid in healing and reduce the risk of other cold sores developing.

What are the ingredients of your toothpaste?

To protect your teeth and prevent oral health diseases, it is crucial that you know the ingredients in your toothpaste.

The top ingredients in your toothpaste include:

  • Fluoride

  • Glycerol

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate

  • Calcium carbonate

How do I apply toothpaste to my cold sore?

If you want to try the toothpaste home remedy for your cold sore, apply a thin layer of non-gel and white SLS toothpaste. Apply it on the spot where the cold sore appears.

What other home remedies can you apply?

There are many things that you can do at home to soothe a cold sore:

Salt: This can be painful when applied on a cold sore but helps draw out the extra moisture that HSV-1 needs to grow. It may also help ease cold sore discomfort. 

Garlic: Garlic has antiseptic and antiviral properties, making it an affordable and accessible home remedy for a cold sore.

Lemon: Lemon balm may limit the activity of HSV-1. Thus, topical ointments containing lemon balm may reduce symptoms, prevent infection spread, and shorten the cold sore's healing period.

Vaseline: Vaseline isn't effective for treating the herpes simplex virus. But it can alleviate that dry, stiff, and cracking sensation.      

What is the average recovery time?

A cold sore can heal completely within 1–2 weeks. Consult a doctor if it lasts more than fifteen days or your immune system is compromised from a medical condition.

The lowdown

The effectiveness of toothpaste on cold sores varies from person to person. Applying toothpaste on a cold sore may or may not prevent it from coming up. 

Ultimately, using ointments and prescription antiviral medicine is a more reliable way to get rid of a cold sore.


Can I use any toothpaste on my cold sore?

You can't use any toothpaste on a cold sore. It's better to buy the type that contains sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) as one of the ingredients.

Which toothpaste works the best?

The only toothpaste that works best for a cold sore is a white non-gel type. You can easily find it anywhere.

Have you considered clinical trials for Cold sores?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Cold sores, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

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