Am I shining my teeth right back to stubbly knubs?
February 21, 2009 2:32 AM   Subscribe

Can I scratch or otherwise harm my teeth by occasionally polishing them with bicarb soda?

About once a week I dip my toothbrush into a mouth wash with peroxide in it (1.5% w/v), and then into bicarb soda, and give my teeth a polish with the gritty moosh this makes. I do this because it makes them shiny, gives a wonderful cleaned-by-a-dentist feel, and I've heard it's a good, cheap way to whiten them.

My questions are should I stop? Am I doing them any harm? Am I scratching my teeth, or doing something else I don't know about?

For what it's worth, I haven't noticed any problems, and I keep the stuff well away from my gums, because I know it may be too abrasive for that area.

I've googled around, and have only managed to find glowing endorsements for the practise by folksy sites, or references to bicarb soda being safe because it's not a deadly poison - the rationale being that we use it in cooking), but I haven't found any comment about whether it's safe for teeth.

I asked my dentist, but he only gave me a vague reply that it's probably not the best thing to do because it's untested. When I asked him why it wouldn't be safe when many toothpastes have bicarb soda added, he suggested that it may be a different grade or type of baking soda. Any truth?
posted by lottie to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You'll be fine, just stick with a fine grain baking soda which you'd happily bake with. My dentist has never remarked on my teeth being scratched.

It is safe for your teeth. If you want to worry about something, you're better off worrying about sodas and hard candies which actively destroy teeth.
posted by pipstar at 2:55 AM on February 21, 2009

Best answer: teeth are a 5 on Moh's scale of hardness, baking soda is about a 2.4. You should be fine.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:53 AM on February 21, 2009

I wouldn't do it any more frequently, and make sure to use a soft/ultrasoft bristled toothbrush. Don't scrub back and forth along the gumline, use gentle little circle motions. I use a baking soda/peroxide slurry about once a month, when I feel my tea/coffee drinkage has left stains.
posted by Jazz Hands at 7:59 AM on February 21, 2009

Best answer: My dentist - actually the hygienist - cleaned my teeth yesterday by 'sandblasting' them with baking soda. Compressed air powered stream of baking soda directed at my teeth. I doubt they would do this if it wasn't safe.
posted by fixedgear at 8:19 AM on February 21, 2009

Your dentist is either ignorant of his discipline's own history (which is entirely plausible) or is trying to get you to buy toothpaste (which is also entirely plausible). Bicarbonate of soda was actually used as toothpaste for quite some time. They still make toothpaste with bicarb in it. Dentists use the stuff straight on a regular basis.

Not only is this not going to hurt your teeth, but it's probably great for them. It's disinfectant, whitening, and cheap as dirt.

The only drawback is that it tastes awful. This is why modern toothpastes were developed; they represent a palatable combination of ingredients that adequately clean teeth. But if you're cheap, you can go back to using pure bicarb with no ill effects that can't be cured by rinsing.
posted by valkyryn at 9:28 AM on February 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just a data point: I've been brushing my teeth with nothing but baking soda for 2-3 years now. No noticeable diminution, scratching, increase in cavities, or negative consequences that I've become aware of. You get used to the taste; I don't like the taste of toothpaste myself.
posted by bricoleur at 9:48 AM on February 21, 2009

Response by poster: I've heard the things about how bicarb used to be used as toothpaste but I wonder if there's a reason it isn't anymore - There have been scientific advances since then, and the health of teeth has made a big leap forward. Did the dental profession learn that it wasn't thorough enough or was doing some harm? That's why I ask. I mean a box of bicarb soda costs about $2 around here and I couldn't finish the box in two years if I used it every single brushing. I started wondering if it was harmful because I don't mind the taste (I'm adept at keeping it away from my tongue), and I wonder why everyone doesn't do this if it's a cheap, whitening, disinfectant. It would sure be cheaper than toothpaste.

FWIW, I don't really want to stop, but asked because I would prefer to know now if it's not a good plan.
posted by lottie at 8:06 PM on February 22, 2009

>I wonder why everyone doesn't do this if it's a cheap, whitening, disinfectant.

People in general don't use it because it's not as convenient as toothpaste from a tube.

Manufacturers don't market it because there's not as much profit in it. They can't introduce new, improved bicarbonate of soda every year to swing you to their brand.
posted by chazlarson at 10:12 AM on February 23, 2009

Keep in mind that there's no fluoride in bicarb. You don't want to end up like these folks.
posted by exhilaration at 11:12 AM on February 23, 2009

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