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Baking soda as teeth whitener? Dentists warn against TikTok trend


TextAlex Peters

The DIY teeth whitener seems like an easy fix, but experts tell us why you could be damaging smile long-term

DIY beauty hacks are experiencing a wave of renewed interest right now, as lockdown restrictions are forcing us to get creative with everything from Kool-Aid as hair dye to socks to curl your hair.

And now, a homemade remedy for whitening your teeth that involves baking soda and liquid hydrogen peroxide is going viral on TikTok. One of the most popular tutorials sees user @tiklikedallas take us through a step-by-step guide on how she uses this combination to whiten her teeth. First, you dip your dry toothbrush in the baking soda, then you pour the hydrogen peroxide over the bristles, and proceed to brush your teeth with the mixture.

Easy enough, right, but does it actually work? And, most importantly, how good is it for your teeth?

Dr Krystyna Wilczyński, a cosmetic dentist at White & Co says she would not recommend using baking soda in this way. Wilczyński tells Dazed Beauty  that because the concoction is  acidic, using it in excess will erode the tooth enamel. “Baking soda has been known to be used to remove tough extrinsic heavy staining for example from smoking or coffee, which in turn makes teeth appear whiter, but does not internally whiten or change the shade of teeth,” she explains.

Dr Kamala Aydazada, founder of Dentist Kensington, disagrees when it comes to baking soda, however. “Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate, and is one of the least abrasive and most effective DIY tooth cleaners on the market today,” she says. “It has been used for decades and there is data from various clinical and lab studies suggesting that a toothpaste containing baking soda can help to neutralize acids and odours, remove plaque and deeper tooth stain.” Arguing that baking soda is a soft mineral that is soluble in water, Dr Aydazada says it is therefore not abrasive enough to cause long term damage.

She does say, however, that baking soda is not an effective substitute for toothpaste in terms of preventing decay, so if you are going to use it, you should follow up with your usual toothburshing routine and a fluoride rinse to help prevent cavities.

“I would like to warn everyone against using such a mixture as it may cause an irreversible damage to your teeth and gums.” – Dr Aydazada

What the two dentists do agree on, though, is that combining the baking soda with liquid hydrogen peroxide is not a good idea – they both recommend you steer clear of it, and the TikTok trend, because of the serious damage it can cause  on the teeth. “Being acidic in nature, hydrogen peroxide would soften enamel of the teeth, making it easier to then remove the healthy tooth structure by brushing it away with baking soda,” says Dr Aydazada. “I would like to warn everyone against using such a mixture as it may cause an irreversible damage to your teeth and gums.”

Dr Wilczynski agrees. “Hydrogen peroxide can be bought at pharmacies, but if the concentration is too strong it can destroy the enamel or outer coating of your teeth and make your teeth weaker,” she says. She explains that they use a carbamide peroxide in the teeth whitening gels they prescribe in-clinic – carbamide peroxide is a substance that can be used at home without dentist supervision too, and doesn’t break down as fast as hydrogen peroxide, or cause the same issues of sensitivity. Overall though, you need to be extremely cautious of the percentage of peroxides, as well as the time it spends on the teeth. 

You don’t want anything too abrasive with this, and baking soda is! The peroxide softens the enamel and the baking soda will then strip it,” she explains. “Some people choose to swish it around their mouths or create a paste, but I still would not recommend either as it is too abrasive, particularly when used too frequently and for long periods of time. This leads to damage of the enamel and tooth sensitivity, which is why it is always best to opt for professional teeth whitening.”

So, what should you do instead if you are looking to whiten up your teeth? Try opting for a whitening toothpaste to lift stains, as well as avoiding food and drinks that stain for example tea, coffee, and red wine. “I would also recommend ordering Whitewash Home Whitening Strips 5 per cent – which can be worn for 30 minutes to enhance whiteness if patients have not had previous tooth whitening,”  Dr Wilczynski advises.

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