Despite its longstanding reputation as a staid household staple, baking soda is experiencing something of a renaissance, and it's even finding its way into American mouths. The craze of brushing your teeth with baking soda has become so widespread that some toothpaste brands are now including baking soda directly in their products. But is baking soda really a safe and effective way to whiten your teeth? A look at the science behind baking soda and your teeth reveals plenty of benefits, but also the need for caution and moderation.
Whitening Your Teeth With Abrasive Chemistry
Baking soda is the household name for the chemical sodium bicarbonate, an alkaline powder that ionizes when exposed to water. This natural chemical reaction, combined with the powder's abrasive properties, is what effectively lifts and removes stains on the enamel of your teeth and other surfaces. If used consistently, you should see noticeable results within a few weeks or months.
Killing Bacteria in Your Mouth
Besides being a whitener, baking soda is also an antibacterial agent. One study conducted in 2008 found that toothpaste products infused with baking soda were significantly more effective at removing plaque than those that did not contain baking soda. This conclusion backed up the results of an earlier study, which determined that baking soda had a measurable impact on colonies of Streptococcus mutans, a species of bacteria that is commonly found in your mouth and associated with tooth decay. So, besides giving you a brighter smile, baking soda may also be leaving you with a cleaner mouth.
Restoring Your Mouth's pH Levels
Your mouth is a complex ecosystem, and even the slightest changes in its conditions can drastically impact your oral health. For example, the enamel of your teeth begins to demineralize when your mouth reaches a pH level of 5.5 or lower, making you vulnerable to tooth decay in the process. This is especially common if you consume acidic foods and drinks like soda. Because sodium bicarbonate is alkaline, it will help maintain the pH levels of your mouth above the demineralization level, creating a healthier environment for your teeth as a result.
Avoiding Damage Through Overuse
For all of its benefits, however, it is important not to use baking soda to excess. Those same abrasive properties that help remove stains can also strip away your enamel if used too often or with too much force. Brush lightly whenever you use baking soda, and remember that you should still be using a product containing fluoride to help fight tooth decay. If you are interested in the potential health benefits of baking soda but are worried about how it will affect your teeth, don't be afraid to speak with your general dentist for a professional opinion beforehand.