The video shows a simple step-by-step tutorial. First, you take a dry toothbrush and swirl it around a cup full of baking soda so that the bristles are completely covered.
Next, you pour liquid hydrogen peroxide over the baking soda-coated brush before cleaning your teeth with it. But does it actually work? And, most importantly, is it safe? The answer is twofold.
When you’re not able to shop for your favourite products or visit professionals for beauty services, certain DIY hacks can definitely come in handy. As we all continue to stay home to help flatten the COVID-19 curve, we’ve found ourselves seeking out these tricks more than ever before. One in particular has piqued our interest, thanks to a viral video on everyone’s new favorite social media app, TikTok: using pure baking soda as a tooth whitener.
“Baking soda certainly can whiten your teeth,” Los Angeles-based dentist Rhonda Kalasho tells Allure. Kalasho explains that baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, has been used for decades as a home whitening substance.
Arizona-based dentist Brian Harris agrees and says baking soda is one of the most common ways to whiten teeth naturally at home. “Because baking soda is a mildly abrasive substance, it removes surface stains from your teeth,” Harris tells Allure.
The ingredient is also found in many toothpastes, which both experts say is a safer form for daily use. “Baking soda is found in several kinds of toothpaste because of its ability to whiten and neutralise acids in the mouth,” says Kalasho. “Through scientific study, we are able to find what a safe amount of baking soda actually is in order to utilise it effectively in toothpaste and oral products so that it is not too abrasive to the teeth.”
But even though it’s backed by science, Kalasho says it shouldn’t be used on its own in your daily cleaning routine. “Daily use of pure baking soda can start causing little micro-fractures and scratches in your enamel and other layers…which can weaken its structure,” she says. “Ultimately, that will make the teeth more susceptible to staining and make them more yellow and brittle over time.”
Harris says he would recommend it if it was the only option available. “I usually don’t recommend it to my patients because it doesn’t have cavity-fighting properties and it also does not taste good,” he says. “Patients often complain that it can leave the mouth feeling gritty and unpleasant. There are much better products on the market that can whiten as effectively but also taste good and help prevent cavities at the same time.” So even if you try this hack, it still doesn’t serve as a suitable replacement for your toothpaste in terms of cleaning your teeth and mouth.
As for adding a substance like hydrogen peroxide into the mix, Kalasho strongly advises against it. She says mixing baking soda with other corrosive chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or citric acids can damage your teeth.
She suggests using an FDA-approved product that contains baking soda, like an Arm Hammer whitening toothpaste. But if you don’t have access to any of those products, she recommends using pure baking soda, at most, every six to seven months in combination with a toothpaste that maintains the strength of the enamel and minimises any sensitivity, like MI Paste Plus. She also says opt for an extra-soft toothbrush rather than an electric toothbrush when using pure baking soda so you’re not putting added pressure on the teeth.
Those with major sensitivity and damage, however, should probably stick to the basics. Kalasho says the most effective way to keep your teeth clean is by regular brushing with toothpaste and flossing. Any other at-home whitening products and hacks (like oil pulling) really just add a “boost” on top of good maintenance.
Even then, those whitening products may not be effective if the stains are deep. “Those deep-set stains are the hardest to remove, and even high concentration, whitening products cannot remove them,” Kalasho says. “If you remember to brush and floss after meals, the chances that the stains become more deep-set are less likely.”
Harris says you might want to limit food and drinks like wine and coffee that stain teeth. It’s a hard ask, but something to think about if you want to keep your teeth looking their best.