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Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a fine, white powder with almost innumerable household uses. Known mainly as a leavening agent, baking soda can do a lot more than make bread rise.
One of its most popular uses is as a teeth cleaner and whitener. But is it as safe and effective as regular toothpaste?
Here’s a look at the benefits and limitations of using baking soda on your teeth, and how to use it safely to remove plaque and oral bacteria.
Yes, it does work. While baking soda can’t protect your teeth from cavities as effectively as a fluoride toothpaste can, it’s still considered a good cleaning agent for your teeth.
Toothpastes containing baking soda have been
Here’s what we know about the benefits and drawbacks of using baking soda as part of your dental hygiene regimen.
Reduces plaque and gingivitis
When you brush, grains of baking soda
May reduce bacteria
Some harmful bacteria need more acidic conditions to thrive in your mouth.
Baking soda has natural whitening properties and has been shown to be effective at removing stains on your teeth and whitening your smile. That’s why it’s a popular ingredient in many commercial toothpastes.
Numerous studies have shown that baking soda is a mild abrasive that has the ability to remove stains from the outside of your teeth.
Is a fluoride-free option
Too much fluoride can be toxic, especially to children under 6 years old. However, it’s important to note that fluoride toxicity is rare, and the risks are only a concern when a very large amount of fluoride is consumed.
At roughly 52 cents an ounce, baking soda is affordable and readily available in nearly every drugstore, grocery store, and big-box retailer.
Unappealing taste and texture
For many users, the biggest downside of brushing with straight baking soda or a baking soda paste is that it doesn’t taste very good. Baking soda’s texture may also make you feel as though you have sand in your mouth — no one’s favorite sensation.
If you want the benefits of baking soda but with a better texture, you could try one of the many commercial toothpastes that list baking soda as an ingredient.
If the texture of natural baking soda doesn’t bother you but the salty taste does, you could add 1 or 2 drops of peppermint oil to the baking soda paste to enhance the taste.
Less dramatic whitening
Baking soda is a mild abrasive. While the American Dental Association (ADA) considers baking soda safe for your enamel and dentin, some
If baking soda doesn’t work well for you as a teeth whitener, you may want to consider products that contain hydrogen peroxide or microbead abrasives.
Lack of fluoride
Although fluoride is a natural element abundant in water and air and present in our bones and teeth, additional fluoride in toothpaste provides an extra shield against tooth decay.
Using baking soda as your only toothpaste doesn’t give you the topical fluoride that’s present in many commercial toothpastes. As a result, using baking soda alone may not give you the cavity protection you need.
To brush your teeth with baking soda, you’ll need the following:
- a toothbrush
- a small bowl or shot glass
- baking soda
- First, mix equal parts baking soda and water in a small bowl until you’ve created a paste.
- Dip your toothbrush into the soda mix and brush in gentle circles, making sure you cover each tooth thoroughly with the paste.
- Keep brushing for around a minute.
- When you’re done, spit out the baking soda and rinse your mouth until your teeth are grit-free and shiny.
Some people recommend adding lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to the mix to increase the whitening power of the baking soda, but these blends may not be a good idea.
The acidity of lemon juice and vinegar may damage the surface of your teeth and leave you vulnerable to cavities.
If you want the best of both worlds — the polishing power of baking soda and the minty flavor of toothpaste — there are plenty of commercial toothpastes available with baking soda as an ingredient.
Gentler products are available over the counter, but they may take several uses before you see a difference. Here’s a list of the ADA-approved products for whitening your teeth at home.
There’s some evidence that natural remedies like coconut oil, lemon peel, and activated charcoal may be effective teeth whiteners. However, it’s important to talk to your dentist to be sure these treatments are safe for your teeth.
Baking soda is an inexpensive, readily available teeth cleanser. As a mild abrasive, it can lighten some tooth stains, and it can help scrub away dental plaque. However, because it doesn’t contain fluoride, it’s not as effective at preventing cavities as your typical fluoride toothpaste.
Although some people find the salty taste and sandy texture of baking soda unappealing, its availability, pH balance, and mildly abrasive properties make it a good choice for people who want to avoid using a toothpaste that contains fluoride or use it with a toothpaste that has fluoride.