Baking soda is enjoying a new wave of popularity. Gone are the days when it was confined to our kitchens, used only to bake delicious bread and cookies. It has now found a prominent place in our skincare routines too. Often, with disastrous consequences.
As an exfoliant, it is way too harsh for skin. Ditto as shampoo. Your hair doesn’t like it much either. But as toothpaste? Here it gets a bit tricky.
Baking soda can be very beneficial for teeth, but only when used properly. And that doesn’t mean on its own.
How does baking soda benefit teeth?
Toothpaste does a great job at removing plaque and bacteria, but it works even better when it contains baking soda. In 2008, scientists compared commercial dentifrices with baking soda to commercial dentifrices without it and concluded that “brushing with dentifrices with higher concentrations of baking soda consistently removed numerically more plaque than those containing lower levels.”
Another study has found that toothpaste with baking soda can also reduce gengival inflammation and dental stains caused by tea, coffee, and even smoking, helping to keep your pearly whites white. The study also found that “microbiological assays showed no adverse shift in the oral microflora; rather, the microbial analysis showed a promotion of health-associated oral microorganisms”. No wonder so many people are swapping their toothpastes for baking soda!
But what about its alkaline ph? Such a high ph (about 8) can cause havoc on skin, destroying the acid mantle that helps to keep moisture in and harmful bacteria out. But it is very good for teeth. An acid ph in the mouth can contribute to the formation of cavities. It has been suggested that baking soda, being alkaline, can help counteract this, keeping your mouth at an ideal ph.
Are there any side effects?
Before you get too excited and rush to your bathroom ready to throw your toothpaste in the bin, swearing you’ll never use anything else bar baking soda again, wait a moment. Baking soda has been proven to be very effective at keeping our mouths and teeth healthy, but only when used in properly formulated toothpastes. NOT on its own!
So, what happens when you use only baking soda? More harm than good. Baking soda is very abrasive, and, when used too often, especially in high doses, can easily damage the teeth’s enamel. This can make teeth become oversensitive to hot and cold temperatures, and even make them more vulnerable to cavities. Baking soda is especially bad for people who wear braces, dental fittings or fixtures. It can weaken the glue that keeps them in place and cause them to fall out. Eek!
Even without these risks, baking soda alone still wouldn’t be enough to take proper care of your teeth. Baking soda is just one ingredient and there’s only so much it can do. Your teeth also need fluoride, which can strengthen the enamel of teeth and, if they are sensitive, potassium nitrate, which reduces their sensitivity with regular use. These, and other beneficial ingredients, are all commonly found in commercial toothpastes.
How to incorporate baking soda in your oral care routine
By using only baking soda, you don’t just risk ruining your teeth, but are also missing out on many beneficial ingredients that can help keep your teeth healthy. To enjoy its benefits without the nasty side effects, a toothpaste with baking soda is your best bet.
The American Dental Association recommends two: Arm & Hammer DentalCare Advance Cleaning ($7.01) and Tom’s of Maine Cavity Protection Baking Soda Fluoride Toothpaste ($4.29). If you like your current toothpaste and don’t want to switch, consult your dentist on how you can best incorporate baking soda in your oral care routine without doing any unwanted damage.
The bottom line
Baking soda is an important ally in the fight against plaque, cavities, and dental stains. But, when used alone, it can do more harm than good to your pearly whites in the long run. For best results, use a commercial toothpaste with baking soda or consult your dentist for possible, and safe, alternatives.
Have you ever used baking soda as toothpaste?