“Is baking soda safe to brush with?”
“Will I damage my teeth if I brush with baking soda?”
These are just a couple of the many questions around the safety of baking soda we get from readers like you.
There are experts who claim that we shouldn’t brush our teeth with baking soda due to the wear that regular brushing with soda can cause on enamel and gum tissue.
While risks exist (that we will explore together in this article), we think there is a deeper issue responsible for the ‘damage’ blamed on baking soda.
Is baking soda being wrongly blamed?
If we just remember this one thing while brushing, we’ll be much more inclined to treat our teeth more carefully…
Our teeth are living gems.
Yep, our teeth are alive and their structure is like a crystal. But, unlike rubies and diamonds, these crystals are alive!
The bottom line is that most of us brush our teeth unconsciously. We call it ‘zombie brushing’.
Let’s face it, if we brush our teeth like we are scrubbing a grout line in our bathroom, using baking soda to brush our teeth has the potential of causing some real problems.
Incidentally, one way to tell whether you brush unconsciously is to notice how you are holding your toothbrush the next time you brush.
If you hold your brush with a closed fist, you are most likely scrubbing a grout line. Holding your toothbrush like this video shows instead will offer a much gentler approach to caring for our oral hygiene.
So, before we dive any further into the details of whether baking soda is safe to use as a regular tooth powder or not, let’s firmly state that ‘how’ we brush our teeth is definitely more important that ‘what’ we brush with.
We have written extensively on the importance of this ‘how vs what’ debate in previous articles that detail the pros and cons of brushing with electric or manual toothbrushes.
Now that we are all on the same page with the importance of brushing consciously, let’s dive into whether baking soda is a healthy choice for brushing.
What are the risks of using baking soda?
Here are the potential downsides to using baking soda as a toothpowder.
Is baking soda too abrasive?
To answer this, let’s compare baking soda so common abrasives used in oral hygiene products. There’s a term used in oral hygiene product world called Relative Dentin Abrasivity (or RDA). The RDA ranks abrasivity from zero to over 200, with the lower on the scale the less abrasive the material. (For a deeper dive on RDA and a free list that ranks the RDA score of common commercial toothpastes, check out our article, “Tooth whitening without abrasive toothpastes – Results from independent lab testing”.)
Baking soda is only a 7 on the RDA scale. So, at first glance, it seems that baking used consciously isn’t too abrasive.
But let’s look a bit closer to make sure…
Pay attention if you have receding gums
As you know, the enamel is the outer portion of each tooth. Under the enamel is the dentin, then the tooth pulp. However, if we have receding gums, it’s very possible that the surface at our gum line that we brush is not enamel, but a tissue softer than enamel called cementum.
This explains on a functional level why it’s more common for adults to get cavities along the gum line than on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. The receding gum line exposes the cementum, which is softer than the enamel that covers the crown of the tooth, and therefore is more prone to decay (and structural damage from abrasives).
But even with this, is makes sense within the discussion of abrasivity that used consciously, baking soda is ok to use in a tooth powder.
2. What about the aluminum in baking soda?
This is a common cultural myth. Baking soda does not contain aluminum. Despite the confusion caused by some product manufacturers labeling ‘aluminum free baking soda’ on their ingredient list, baking soda doesn’t have any aluminum in it.
The confusion comes from the fact that some baking powders do contains aluminum derivatives. So, in a case of mistaken identity, baking soda got thrown under the bus.
Baking soda does not contain aluminum. So this is a non-issue.
3. Daily use of baking soda by itself may be too far…
There are experts in the field who suggest that baking soda is too ‘rough’ and compromises the healthy biofilm our teeth need to be healthy. Called the ‘pellicle’, this naturally occurring layer of health giving bacteria helps protect our teeth from acidic foods and other external factors that could challenge our enamel.
Incidentally, this is why we chose to include baking soda in OraWellness Shine, our remineralizing tooth whitening powder. But in the formulation, we kept baking soda as a minor component and didn’t make it the main ingredient. Not too much, but just enough to help…
The Benefits of Baking Soda
Here are the benefits…
1. Supports a healthier oral pH
The pH of our mouths plays a big role in determining what populations of bacteria flourish in our mouths. It’s generally recognized that the lower (more acidic) the pH in the mouth, the greater the risk of tooth decay. (Enamel demineralization occurs at pH 5.5 and lower)
You see, the bacteria that flourish at a pH of 5.5 find a pH of 6.5 or 7.0 downright inhospitable. Our job in managing our oral microbiome is to help maintain a mouth pH that encourages the probiotic bacterial populations that help us live healthy, vital lives.
Using baking soda can help in supporting a more alkaline oral pH. With a pH of 8.3, baking soda gently nudges the environment of our mouths to a healthier place.
For a deeper dive into the role that pH plays in our oral health, check out our article “Tracking your saliva pH“. This article contains a free download, the OraWellness saliva tracking log to help you along your path.
2. Baking soda lowers bad bug count
Plenty of research shows that baking soda really can help in lowering the populations of bad bugs in the mouth. Baking soda is an effective support tool to reduce periodontal pathogens. (2)
This makes sense if you stop and think about it. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, so it’s a salt. All salts are naturally antimicrobial.
3. Helps to gently remove extrinsic stains from teeth
A couple years ago we took a deep dive into researching commercial teeth whitening.
You can read what solutions we gleaned from that research by downloading our FREE resource guide, How to Naturally Whiten Your Teeth (without destroying your enamel).
Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
Given the above information, we believe that baking soda can offer support in helping us navigate to optimal oral health provided that we brush consciously and avoid ‘zombie brushing’ our teeth. Baking soda definitely contributes plenty of ‘grit’ to help remove plaque, but we must be vigilant in staying present while brushing with baking soda to avoid causing more harm than good.
You see, most of the grit of baking soda (and toothpaste for that matter) is diluted with saliva and ‘used up’ within the first 20 seconds of brushing.
So, if out of habit you always start, for example, on the upper left side when brushing, the teeth and surrounding gum tissue in that area are going to get more than their share of abrasive and can weaken over time.
How to avoid overworking one spot in your mouth
We share a simple strategy in our free video tutorial course, the 5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth, to help mitigate the risk of this habitual ‘starting to brush in the same spot every time’.
Here’s the simple strategy…
Presuming you brush twice a day, start on one side of your mouth in the morning and the other side at night. An easy way to remember this is ‘at night, start on the right’. So, each morning start brushing on the left side of your mouth and each night, on the right.
In this way, we spread out the fresh toothpaste/tooth powder to various areas around the mouth. This will not only lower the risk of over brushing one area but also increase the benefit of using the product throughout the mouth. (As a side note, we even recommend this for those of you using our organic toothpaste alternative, the OraWellness HealThy Mouth Blend.)
How to use baking soda in a homemade toothpowder
We are so grateful for the resurgence of the DIY (do-it-yourself) movement. It seems that across all aspects of life from making deodorant to raising backyard chickens, we’re all waking up to the benefits of doing it ourselves.
If you want to try your hand at making a toothpowder, definitely consider using baking soda as one of the ingredients.
You may also really consider using xylitol to boost remineralization. Just make sure that the xylitol is sourced from birch and not corn, you so avoid GMO exposure.
If you’re concerned or not sure about the safety of xylitol, check out our article ‘Is xylitol safe to brush with?‘ for a similar dive like what we’ve done here with baking soda.
And, if you like the idea of using a toothpowder to remineralize your teeth but don’t want to try making it yourself, you may want to check out what we created with over 3 years of our research and development. We’re very proud of OraWellness Shine, our remineralizing tooth whitening powder. Here are just a few of the hundreds of testimonials we’ve received since launching Shine.
At my last dental visit, my dentist said, ‘Whatever you are doing, just keep it up!’ Lisa H.
“After using Shine for several weeks my teeth feel noticeably less sensitive. My husband won’t always “buy in” to natural remedies & cures, and he outright did not believe you could remineralize your teeth. I bought Shine for myself and use it every day. Although skeptical, he saw me using it and he decided to try it. During his next visit to the dentist, they could not believe how much his teeth had improved! His hygienist & dentist both asked him what he had been doing. They thought he gave up soda and candy (which unfortunately he hasn’t lol), but I am so thankful he gave Shine a try! We may never have a perfect diet but using Shine is a simple and effective step toward a healthier life! Thank you!”
You can learn more about how OraWellness Shine helps remineralize while it gently whitens teeth here.
How about you? Do you use baking soda in your toothpaste/tooth powder? If so, why? If not, why not? Sharing your thoughts in the comments really helps us all learn from one another. Together we can accomplish so much good.
Helpful, Related Resources:
How to Brush Your Teeth to Reduce Gum Disease [video tutorial]
Electric vs Manual Brushes… Which is Better? [article]
Tracking Your Saliva pH – part 2 of ‘How to Know You Are Heading in the Right Direction [article]
5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth [free video tutorial series]
What Causes Receding Gums and How to Stop it [article]
How to Stop Receding Gums [article]
The ‘Perfect Storm’ for Decay [article]
How to Balance Your ‘Oral Flora’ [article]
Is Xylitol Safe to Brush with? [article]
How to Stop Tooth Decay [article]
OraWellness Shine [[remineralizing tooth whitening powder solution]]
photo courtesy of wikipedia