Teeth whitening with baking soda is not harmful because it is one of the least abrasive whitening agents and it prevents enamel erosion by neutralizing acids. With that being said, it isn't the most effective whitener since it lacks the ability to chemically oxidize intrinsic tooth stains.
Table of contents:
Alleged baking soda whitening teeth dangers
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the dangers of using baking soda on your teeth to whiten them. Just about all of these claims have turned out to be false in nature. There is absolutely no evidence to support any of these false claims because whitening toothpaste is not bad for you at all.
Alleged dangerous side effects of baking soda on enamel:
It is highly abrasive on your enamel.
Can damage your enamel.
Cause tooth sensitivity.
Increase chances for cavities.
Baking soda is very abrasive
This is a false statement because baking soda is actually one of the least abrasive whiteners in toothpastes that you can use. It happens to be the most gentle dentifrice that is second only to pure water in terms of abrasivity. All other toothpastes on the market are MORE abrasive and consequently more likely to destroy your enamel than plain baking soda.
This is demonstrated by Relative Dentin Abrasiveness value (RDA) that measures how abrasive a toothpaste is to the dentin. The dentin is a lot softer than the enamel so you don't want anything that can abrade away the dentin. This research study in Materials found that straight baking soda had the lowest RDA out of various toothpastes. The baking soda had a RDA value of 7 while Colgate Total came in at 70, making the Colgate much more abrasive!
As you can see in the chart, there are a lot of commonly used toothpastes but the only one less abrasive than pure baking soda was plain water. Thus, the alleged claim that it is very abrasive on the enamel couldn't be further from the truth because whatever you're using to brush your teeth with is definitely more harmful than this.
Baking soda destroys enamel if you brush aggressively
Brushing aggressively can damage your enamel regardless of what type of toothpaste you use. That is a fact and also why you should use a very soft brush along with gentle brushing motions.
However, the damage can be exacerbated if you couple the aggressive brushing with an abrasive toothpaste. Fortunately for you, baking soda is one of the least abrasive pastes that you can use to brush your teeth. Just about every other product that you use will be more abrasive than it aside from plain water.
Therefore, we would have to say that if you were to brush aggressively (which you shouldn't) you'll cause the least amount of damage if you actually used the baking soda. It is a far fetched claim that it can destroy your enamel. Sodium bicarbonate is one of the safest whitening toothpastes that you can use.
Cause tooth sensitivity
This is an unfounded claim because regular toothpaste cannot make your teeth sensitive and baking soda is no exception. The toothpastes which contain hydrogen peroxide or whitening ingredients can make your teeth sensitive. The side effect of whitening is teeth sensitivity.
Fortunately for you, plain old baking soda has no hydrogen peroxide so it does not have the capability of inducing sensitivity. The only ingredient within it is just sodium bicarbonate and you can verify its information on PubChem.
Increases chances for tooth decay
The only way for a product to induce cavities is if it contains sugar or it can erode away the enamel. Baking soda has been shown to be the most gentle on the enamel and it also does not contain any sugar at all.
In fact, one of the downsides to using it is due to its taste. It is very alkaline in nature so it has a tendency to taste bitter. That bitter taste actually makes people hesitant to use the product.
Last but not least, since it is alkaline in nature it actually makes it less likely to cause tooth decay. Usually decay will form if it drops below the critical pH level of 5.5 which is actually acidic in nature. Therefore using this will actually buffer the oral pH by neutralizing all of the acid.
In case you were not convinced about the acid neutralizing capabilities, there is actually a statement from the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) about using to neutralize morning sickness acidity. Some expecting mothers vomit from that morning nausea and all of the stomach acids erupt into their mouth. That can erode away the enamel if it is not neutralized properly.
Is baking soda safe to use for whitening?
We have literally disproved all of the alleged dangers of baking soda teeth whitening. In case you were still not persuaded about the safety of it, here is a study from the Journal of American Dental Association regarding baking soda dentifices and oral health.
The conclusions from the study:
The low abrasivity of baking soda makes them safe for daily use in your oral hygiene routine.
Microbiological studies have demonstrated that it is bactericidal against oral pathogens. It reduces plaque biofilm and gingivitis.
It does have stain reducing and whitening capabilities.
It neutralizes acids which helps in preventing cavities.
Those were all positive points about this product. There was nothing negative mentioned about it in the study at all. Since it is highly recommended by the ADA, you should have no more reason to doubt its safety.
More effective way to whiten teeth
Baking soda is wonderful in that it is gentle and it is safe but that is also what makes it not that effective for teeth whitening. All of the professional teeth whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide (HP) or some derivative of it and that is what makes them effective. The HP will oxidize the organic substances in your tooth to make it appear lighter.
Since it lacks it, it won't be as effective for brightening your teeth.
Yes, it may still whiten them a little bit but the most that it can do is similar to other whitening toothpastes. If you want to really drastically change the color of your enamel, you'll need to use products with hydrogen peroxide.
More effective teeth whitening products:
Teeth whitening strips
Feel free to give any of them a try. Usually the OTC options are less concentrated but they're also less expensive as well. The professional products do work more effectively but they tend to cost a lot more.
Hopefully we've answered all of your questions in regards to the safety of using baking soda on your teeth to whiten them. Our dentists in Long Island City believe that it is perfectly safe to use them since it is even recommended by the ADA. Don't let all of that false information on the internet deter you from giving this product a try if you've yellow teeth.