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  • Writer's pictureDr Donna Hill

Bicarbonate of soda teeth whitening

As the demand for cosmetic dentistry increases people are often wondering if there are alternate ways to whiten teeth, we've heard of people trying coconut oil, charcoal, and bicarbonate of soda. This post is going to focus mainly on bicarbonate of soda teeth whitening.

In order to know if baking soda is effectively using teeth whitening, indeed, in order to know if ANYTHING is effective in teeth whitening let's look at how teeth whitening works in conjunction with cleaning your teeth (coconut oil, charcoal, and bicarbonate of soda are all typically used as a toothpaste to whiten teeth).

Ways to whiten your teeth

In order to whiten teeth you need to do one of the following:

  1. abrade the surface to remove any surface stains

  2. remove the surface stains altogether by bleaching

Teeth bleaching works by having a released amount of hydrogen peroxide in a gel. The oxygen molecules in the gel react with the discoloured molecules in your teeth, this reaction breaks down the bonds that hold these molecules together, consequently, the discolouration disappears.

Removing tooth surface gives the illusion of whitening by removing any surface stains. However, if the tooth itself is actually darker then you'd like no amount of surface abrasion is going to whiten it.

Throughout the following questions we will always be linking back to this part of this blog post and asking the question, how is this whitening your teeth?

What does toothpaste do?

This is the next important question we need to consider. Because coconut oil, charcoal, and bicarbonate of soda are typically used in toothpaste it's important to understand what toothpaste does and how it works. We can then compare any toothpaste against this standard and ask ourselves if the toothpaste is actually working.

Toothpaste typically has 3 main ingredients:

  1. a mild abrasive.

  2. fluoride.

  3. A mint taste.

The mild abrasive is often dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate or similar. The particle size and quantities are carefully measured to ensure the toothpaste cleaned adequately without damaging your teeth.

The fluoride is there as it has been shown that fluoride helps in the remineralisation process which is required in order to keep the enamel of your teeth healthy. Throughout the day your teeth will be subject to acid attack and they become demineralised, it's important that the remineralisation process is maintained and fluoride helps with this.

The mint taste is simply to make the whole process more palatable.

It's really important that any toothpaste you use contains fluoride as without it the toothpaste is not working as effectively as it could.

So now we know how teeth whitening works and what toothpaste does, let's look more specifically at baking soda products.

Does baking soda really help whiten teeth?

The very simple answer is yes, however it only whitens teeth by abrading the surface and removing surface stains. This comes with a couple of potential problems:

  1. excessive abrasion causing tooth wear

  2. if you only use baking soda to clean your teeth you aren't adding any fluoride to your tooth

If the tooth abrasion continues for a long period of time you can find that the hard outer layer of the tooth (enamel) gets worn away, this is particularly prevalent around the neck of the tooth where it joins the gum. This can cause sensitive teeth in the long-term!

If you only use baking soda to whiten your teeth and don't use regular toothpaste then you will be missing out on the protection that a toothpaste provides if it contains fluoride.

The other problem with using a mixture of baking soda and water is that whilst it may effectively remove stains, such as coffee, tea or red wine it won't actually whiten the inherent colour of your tooth. in order to whiten the tooth beyond removing surface stains when you will need to use conventional dental teeth whitening products.

Does brushing your teeth with Sodium Bicarbonate damage them?

If used in the long-term then yes sodium bicarbonate could damage your teeth. Sodium bicarbonate can lighten teeth by removing surface stains but it does this by simply being an abrasive. If you use an abrasive on anything for an extended period of time then one of the side-effects could be that you lose vital tooth structure.

This could result in increased sensitivity of your teeth making an extremely uncomfortable or even painful.

If you are not using conventional toothpaste you could also exacerbate this process by not having any fluoride, fluoride helps with the remineralisation of the enamel and if this remineralisation is not happening then the abrasion could be more aggressive.

Does lemon and baking soda whiten teeth?

We highly recommend that you do not use lemon juice to whiten teeth. Lemon juice is extremely acidic with a pH level between 2 and 3 meaning it is 10,000 - 100,000 times more acidic than water! This acid, when coupled with the naturally occurring acid which is excreted from the bacteria in your mouth could lead to excessive dental decay.

Does baking soda prevent plaque in teeth?

Baking soda will not prevent plaque in teeth. Plaque is caused by the thin biofilm which covers your teeth forming into a sticky layer. If this sticky layer is not removed each day by cleaning adequately then it can harden into tartar. This tartar collects in between your teeth and looks very yellow. The tartar also stains extremely easily which can then make your teeth look even darker.

The way to keep this tartar buildup to a minimum is to clean your teeth with the fluoride containing toothpaste and then use an interdental brush or floss to clean between your teeth, using a brush or floss then removes the sticky layer which then does not harden into the yellow tartar.

All baking soda would do to your teeth is a abrade the surface!

Can baking soda and hydrogen peroxide be used?

This is one of the most dangerous things we have heard, if you use hydrogen peroxide in an uncontrolled way on your teeth then you risk damaging the soft tissue around your tooth. Hydrogen peroxide will burn and should NEVER be used outside of the controlled dental environment where it is precisely measured into a gel to ensure you use the barest minimum.

How to whiten my teeth?

So now we come onto actually whitening teeth and how to do it safely without damaging the surface or affecting your long-term dental health.

You can start the tooth whitening process at home by ensuring you have a good oral health care routine and watching your diet. Cleaning your teeth twice per day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste for 2 min and then cleaning in between your teeth with an interdental brush or floss will help keep plaque to a minimum (it's often the plaque in between your teeth which picks up sustain darker and gives the overall impression of dark teeth, keeping plaque reduced means your teeth will look whiter).

Once you have got your oral health care under control you can then consider dental teeth whitening. This should always be undertaken by a registrant of the General Dental Council, this ensures that your treatment is safe, legal and effective.

Find out:

  • The costs and lowest price alternatives

  • Your options and choices for treatment

  • Are you suitable for treatment?

  • How you can have whiter, straighter and better looking teeth

  • How long does each treatment take?

  • Plus lots more…



After qualifying in 1992 in Birmingham, Donna moved to Cornwall then helped to set up Trinity Dental Centre in 2000, with the aim of providing kind and gentle dental care. Donna's interest is in the cosmetic field and she frequently updates her knowledge in this area. Outside of work she likes to read and to cook. She is married to Rodney and they have two sons. View all posts by Dr Donna Hill .


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