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By Dr. Rob Gausmann, DDS  – Printed January 27, 2014

Q. Is baking soda a substitute for toothpaste and does it whiten teeth?

A. Baking soda is an inexpensive “do-all” product. Uses vary from cleaning the dishwasher, to food preparation, to absorbing odors from forgotten refrigerator foods. In keeping with the “do-all” approach, baking soda has also been used as a product to clean and whiten teeth. 

Cleaning Teeth

For preventative oral health, toothpaste is used in conjunction with a toothbrush to clean the unhealthy layer built up on teeth called plaque. When using baking soda as your everyday “toothpaste” there are several considerations.

Due to its abrasive composition, baking soda is a good cleaner. This cleaning aspect also works well in the mouth. Oftentimes however, a combination of a stiff toothbrush and relentless scrubbing make baking soda too abrasive for oral usage. Its abrasive nature can wear away tooth and gum tissue. Other potential side effects of using baking soda are a lingering “gritty” texture, salty taste and slight “burning” sensation after use. 

When used in proportion with other ingredients, baking soda can be beneficial. Many types of toothpaste actually use baking soda as one of the components for cleaning teeth. Most formulated toothpastes offer additional ingredients, such as fluoride, to strengthen teeth and maximize oral health treatment. Pure baking soda does not have fluoride or any of the additional beneficial ingredients. Because of this, the ADA (American Dental Association) does not approve baking soda as a toothpaste. The ADA does approve baking soda to be used in toothpaste, but because it is lacking all the other key components, it is not approved as a single product.

Whitening Teeth

Baking soda can also be used to “whiten” teeth, but the alternatives often prove to be more effective and last longer.

The abrasive composition of baking soda is what allows it to be a whitening agent for teeth. Surface stains (discoloration on the outside of teeth from coffee, tea, etc…) can be removed by “sanding” away the stain with baking soda. Consistently abrading teeth may remove the stains, but this can also harm the teeth. 

When whitening, patients are looking to lighten the color (shade) of their teeth. This will minimally change with baking soda. Typically, a professional whitening treatment that addresses the deeper parts of the teeth (not just surface stains), will achieve the desired lighter color.

Is Baking Soda a good choice for me? 

Although a box of baking soda is inexpensive, it is probably better left under the kitchen sink.  The overall health advantages of toothpaste and whitening treatments far outweigh the slight increase in cost. 

If baking soda has been the staple for brushing, consider switching to toothpaste with baking soda added. Many companies advertise the use of baking soda in their toothpaste and some baking soda manufacturers have even started making toothpaste!

If pursuing a holistic approach to oral health, in addition to baking soda, there are other natural toothpastes and mouth products worth considering.

Dr. Rob Gausmann, DDS  – Gausmann Family Dental

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