Fact Or Fiction: Baking Soda Will Whiten Your Teeth

It's normal for teeth to become slightly discolored over time. Sodas, red wine, and red sauces are just a few of the dietary culprits that can lead to staining. To treat discoloration, some people turn to an old remedy — baking soda — also known as sodium bicarbonate. But does it work?

Brushing with a paste of water and baking soda will, in fact, return some whiteness to teeth, but experts warn that it's not the best way to whiten. That's because the same element of baking soda that whitens teeth can also damage them.

According to CNN, baking soda is a mild abrasive and also has mild bleaching properties. That's why before toothpaste was widely commercially available, people used it to brush. But the abrasive nature of baking soda can actually damage the thin layer of enamel on teeth, eroding it over time and leaving teeth susceptible to plaque and even nerve damage. Once enamel is gone, it's gone for good — it will not regenerate.

What's the best thing to use for teeth whitening?

But that doesn't mean all hope is lost for whitening teeth at home. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry, toothpastes that contain baking soda were significantly better at removing stains than those that do not have that as an ingredient. Four toothpastes, including Arm and Hammer Dental Care, were tested against a control of plain water, as well as toothpastes containing silica or dicalcium phosphate. All four of the baking soda toothpastes removed stains better than the other options.

Toothpaste is a better choice than straight baking soda for another reason. It contains additional elements that can control plaque and fight cavities, according to Insider. Fluoride, which serves to strengthen enamel, is just one example.

Andre Ritter, DDS and chair of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at NYU College of Dentistry, told Insider that even baking soda toothpaste shouldn't be for everyday use. Use it a few times a week instead and focus on good brushing technique with regular toothpaste daily. "You can use regular toothpaste and if you brush as recommended, twice a day and you get to all the surfaces of your teeth, you can keep those surfaces clean," Ritter said. "You don't need to use anything else if you're doing a good job."