Brushing Teeth with Baking Soda: Benefits, Risks, and Best Practices

May 28, 2024 | Patient Tips

Brushing teeth with baking soda is a practice that dates back decades, known for whitening benefits and natural simplicity. However, is it truly a safe and effective method for cleaning your teeth and maintaining oral health? 

In this detailed guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of using baking soda as a toothpaste, helping you make an informed decision for your dental care routine.

What is Baking Soda?

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a mild abrasive compound that can remove stains from surfaces. This is why it’s often included in toothpaste formulas. It’s a white crystalline powder that is naturally alkaline, or basic in pH, and known for its ability to neutralize acids, which are commonly found in the mouth after eating and drinking.

The Benefits of Brushing with Baking Soda

  1. Whitening Teeth: One of the most appealing aspects of baking soda is its potential to whiten teeth. Baking soda can gently polish away surface stains from your teeth, potentially making your smile appear brighter.
  2. Neutralizing Oral Acids: The alkaline nature of baking soda helps neutralize the acids in the mouth, which can reduce the risk of tooth decay and improve oral health. After consuming acidic foods or drinks, brushing with baking soda can help balance the pH level inside your mouth.
  3. Reducing Bad Breath: Baking soda can also help freshen your breath. It combats the acids left by food particles, which can reduce bad breath caused by bacteria.
  4. Cost-Effective: Baking soda is inexpensive compared to many commercial toothpastes and can be a cost-effective option for oral hygiene.

Does Brushing With Baking Soda Whiten Teeth?

Imagine your teeth as a white tile floor in your home. Over time, this floor can get covered with various stains and debris from shoes, spills, and other residues. Just as you might use a gentle scrubbing agent to clean and restore the shine to your tile floor, baking soda works similarly on your teeth.

Baking soda acts like a gentle scrub on the surface of your teeth. Its mild abrasive properties allow it to physically scrub away surface stains from coffee, tea, or smoking, much like a soft scrub brush on your tiled floor. 

Additionally, when you mix baking soda with water, it creates an alkaline solution that can break down the sticky residues (plaque) that bind stains to your teeth, making it easier to wash them away, just as a good floor cleaner would dissolve and lift grime, making it easier to wipe clean.

This dual action of gentle scrubbing and breaking down residues helps return your teeth to their cleaner, whiter appearance, much like how a freshly cleaned tile floor looks brighter and more pristine after a good scrub.

The Risks Associated with Brushing with Baking Soda

While there are benefits, it’s crucial to consider the potential drawbacks of using baking soda on your teeth:

  1. Abrasive Nature: Although baking soda is a mild abrasive, excessive use can damage the enamel over time. If the enamel wears down, it can lead to increased tooth sensitivity and an elevated risk for cavities.
  2. Lack of Fluoride: Baking soda does not contain fluoride, a mineral that helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay. Regular toothpastes that include fluoride provide an essential benefit that baking soda alone cannot offer.
  3. Taste and Texture: Some people may find the salty taste and gritty texture of baking soda unpleasant, which might discourage regular use.

Can Brushing with Baking Soda Damage the Teeth?

Baking soda, while an effective cleaner, acts like fine sandpaper. When you use it to brush your teeth, it can effectively scrub away surface stains, much like sanding wood to remove old paint or stains. 

However, just as sanding too vigorously or too often can wear down wood and strip away its protective varnish, using baking soda too frequently or with too much force can wear down the enamel on your teeth. This enamel is the protective outer layer of your teeth, and once it’s worn down, it doesn’t regenerate. 

The loss of enamel can lead to increased tooth sensitivity and higher susceptibility to cavities since the underlying, softer dentin is more vulnerable to decay and temperature sensitivities. Just as a wooden floor would need a refinish or could even require replacement if overly sanded, teeth might need fillings, crowns, or other treatments if the enamel is excessively worn.

Therefore, while baking soda can be part of an oral hygiene routine, it should be used gently and sparingly, much like how you would carefully sand a cherished piece of wooden furniture to avoid damaging it. This approach helps maintain the health and longevity of both your teeth and their protective enamel.

Best Practices for Using Baking Soda

If you decide to try brushing with baking soda, here are some tips to ensure you’re doing it safely:

  1. Moderation is Key: Limit your use of baking soda for brushing to just a few times a week. Overuse can lead to enamel wear.
  2. Use the Right Technique: Apply a small amount of baking soda to a damp toothbrush and brush gently. Avoid scrubbing vigorously as you may harm your gum tissue and tooth enamel.
  3. Rinse Thoroughly: After brushing with baking soda, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water to remove any residual baking soda.
  4. Continue Using Regular Toothpaste: Since baking soda does not contain fluoride, it’s important to continue using regular fluoride toothpaste primarily. Consider baking soda as an occasional supplement to your regular dental care routine.

What Does Baking Soda Taste Like When Brushing Teeth?

Imagine taking a dip in the ocean and getting a mouthful of seawater. Baking soda, like seawater, has a distinctly salty and somewhat alkaline flavor that can be quite stark compared to the sweet, minty freshness of standard toothpaste. This unusual taste, combined with the gritty texture, might be off-putting at first.

Overall, while effective for certain purposes like whitening and cleaning, the texture and taste of baking soda can make the experience quite unique and may take some getting used to.

Consult Your Dentist

It’s a good idea to talk with your dentist before adding baking soda to your dental regimen. Your dentist can provide personalized advice based on your specific oral health needs.

While baking soda can be an effective tool for removing surface stains and neutralizing oral acids, it should not replace your regular fluoride toothpaste. Used judiciously, it can be a beneficial adjunct to your oral hygiene practices. Remember, the best way to ensure your teeth remain healthy is to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, and visit your dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleanings.

At Topping Dental, we’re committed to helping you understand all aspects of your oral health. If you have any questions about using baking soda as part of your dental care routine or need more tips on maintaining optimal oral hygiene, feel free to reach out. We’re here to ensure your smile is healthy and bright!

Looking for a dentist in Elkhart county? Contact any one of our three offices today to schedule your next appointment.

Call Topping Dental Group Nappanee Dentistry(574) 773-9700

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