Before high-tech whitening and fluoride toothpastes were part of the American manufacturing scene, people brushed and rinsed with baking soda or a combination of baking soda and salt. Because baking soda is an abrasive material, you may be concerned that rinsing with baking soda could damage your teeth. Understanding the risks and rewards of using a baking soda rinse can help you determine if the rinse is right for you.
Baking soda is a chemical compound, sodium bicarbonate. This compound is found naturally in mineral springs, but also can be manufactured. When mixed with water, baking soda causes a fizzing effect. Baking soda has been touted as helping everything from freshening breath to preventing tooth decay to whitening teeth, and can be purchased in most drug or grocery stores as a white, powdery substance.
When you rinse your teeth out with baking soda, you may feel as if the bubbles are fizzing and cleaning your teeth. However, the fizzing action of the baking soda has not been proved to clean your teeth and prevent cavities. Baking soda also is advertised as being helpful in whitening teeth. However, the action of baking soda is not to bleach the teeth, but instead actually helps to break the bonds that stain molecules on the teeth. This makes the stains appear less noticeable. If you use a baking soda rinse, it may be effective in removing stains.
While baking soda may add some tingle to your rinse or toothpaste, there is little to connect it with specific dental benefits, according to Dr. William van Dyk, a general dental practitioner based in San Pablo, California. "Baking soda has a taste sensation that makes teeth feel good, but there is no proven therapeutic value," Dr. van Dyk said. "Baking soda is a product of nostalgia; it's one of your grandmother's favorite health remedies." Instead of effectiveness, Dr. van Dyk suggests that when baking soda is touted as good for your teeth, it is more of a marketing technique.
Baking soda is not bad for your health and it will not harm your teeth. However, it is important that you maintain proper expectations for the benefits of rinsing your teeth with baking soda. Do not use baking soda as your sole method of cleaning your teeth or maintaining your gum health, because it may not be an effective treatment.