There is a common idea that goes around the natural dentistry community claiming that baking soda is too abrasive and will ruin enamel if you brush your teeth with it, but is this true?
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is a common and inexpensive household chemical that is very safe and non-toxic. It is produced from soda ash, also known as washing soda or sodium carbonate, mined from the ground. It doesn’t occur naturally but is easily and safely manufactured using natural minerals. Baking soda was discovered in 1801, and by 1846 the US had its first baking soda factory! Using sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide, American bakers John Dwight and Austin Church produced baking soda under what is now a household staple brand: Arm & Hammer.
Baking soda has been recognized for its tooth cleaning power since the 1970s. Colgate came out with a baking soda toothpaste in 1974 and Church and Dwight was not far behind coming out with a toothpaste that was 94% baking soda in the 1980s .
Will Baking Soda Hurt Tooth Enamel?
If you do a search for “baking soda and teeth” you will find lots of blogs claiming that baking soda is bad for your teeth because it wears down tooth enamel. To understand how baking soda affects enamel, a few of its scientific properties are important to understand. Baking soda is composed of small crystals. All crystals are ranked by their hardness on what is called the Moh’s Hardness Scale, with 0 being softest and 10 being hardest.
You’ve probably heard that only a diamond can scratch or cut another diamond. This is because only a crystal with the same or greater hardness can scratch another crystal, and a diamond comes in at a 10, making it the hardest crystal. Tooth enamel is made from a crystal called calcium hydroxyapatite that has a hardness rating of 5 [2,3]. Baking soda comes in at a 2.5, which is significantly softer than tooth enamel. This makes it impossible for these tiny crystals to scratch or harm healthy enamel, but when rubbed against the teeth they do have an amazing polishing effect removing plaque quite well!
In certain circumstances, things like acids may soften your enamel and weaken your teeth, making them more vulnerable to erosion. In this case, even the action of brushing your teeth can remove enamel because the bristles and scrubbing action are too abrasive. You might be struggling with soft enamel and an acidic mouth if your teeth are sensitive when you brush. If this sounds like you, gently rinsing your mouth with baking soda can help counteract the softening effect of the acids and prevent tooth sensitivity.
Baking Soda is Great for Teeth!
Baking soda isn’t just great for cleaning, it actually has several properties that make it great for teeth! Baking soda neutralizes the acids that eat teeth, polishes teeth, removes plaque, and helps to remineralize teeth.
Baking soda is an alkaline chemical that helps to counteract and neutralize acids. Acids in your mouth are particularly bad for your teeth. They will eat your tooth enamel and cause your teeth to become soft. This leads to holes in your enamel that allow bacteria into the inner tooth where they hide and grow into a cavity. In addition to acidic foods you may eat, the bacteria in your mouth create acids when they feed off the sugars in your food, which then results in bigger holes in your teeth. As an alkaline chemical, baking soda helps protect your teeth from the acids in your diet and those produced by bacteria in your mouth.
The tiny crystals in baking soda do not dissolve easily, and so as you brush your teeth the tiny baking soda crystals polish the teeth and help to remove plaque. Plaque is the home of bacteria that harbors an entire ecosystem of microbes that cause cavities, gingivitis, and tooth decay. Studies on baking soda toothpastes have found that baking soda helps to prevent and reduce gingivitis, which can reduce gum disease. A meta-analysis of 21 studies on baking soda-based toothpastes found a small but significant reduction in gingivitis, plaque, and gum bleeding .
Baking soda also helps to remineralize teeth. The tooth enamel crystal, calcium hydroxyapatite is made of three ions (charged molecules): calcium, phosphate, and hydroxide (OH-) in a crystalline structure. When acids eat the teeth, the positively charged hydrogens (H+) in the acid react with the negatively charged hydroxides (OH-) in the teeth to form water H2O. This changes the structure of the teeth to create holes in the tooth enamel where the hydroxides were. This is the cause of the demineralization of teeth. Baking soda contains negatively charged hydroxides (OH-) that react with the acids to form water and prevent the acids from eating the teeth. The hydroxides in the baking soda also go into the teeth to replace the lost hydroxides from acid demineralization and reform the calcium hydroxyapatite. When the hydroxides of baking soda are combined with saliva, which contains phosphate and calcium ions, they build up the tooth enamel.
The Honest Tooth
The Honest Tooth powder is an alternative to toothpaste that cleans the teeth better than any paste or powder. It uses the power of baking soda, xylitol, monolaurin, and essential oils to help to eliminate harmful bacteria and yeast that are the cause of bad breath and tooth decay. The Honest Tooth will get your teeth whiter, remove more plaque, and get your breath fresher! Learn more about The Honest Tooth (and check out our video on our cleaning power compared to Crest) on the product page.
- Baking soda dentifrices and oral health - The Journal of the American Dental Association. https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(17)30822-X/fulltext (accessed 2021-11-12)
- Moh’s Scale of Relative Hardness. 3. https://www.armtech.pl/f/uslugi/Mohs_scale_of_relative_hardness.pdf
- How Hard Are Human Teeth And Enamel?. https://www.westernpaoms.com/hard-human-teeth/ (accessed 2021-11-12)
- Valkenburg, C.; Kashmour, Y.; Dao, A.; (Fridus) Van der Weijden, G. A.; Slot, D. E. The Efficacy of Baking Soda Dentifrice in Controlling Plaque and Gingivitis: A Systematic Review. Int. J. Dent. Hyg. 2019, 17 (2), 99–116. https://doi.org/10.1111/idh.12390