baking-soda-2Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) is a handy cleaning product that is mildly abrasive in solution and is excellent for dissolving grease and molds. It can also be used as a powder to absorb musty odors. For these reasons, baking soda is great in the laundry or for cleaning the refrigerator and the powder can take bad smells from musty old books. It’s easy to be a fan of such a versatile product but be cautious before you join the craze to use baking soda on your gums and teeth. The ADA seems blissful in their recent relationship with Arm and Hammer, running ads for home and professional toothpastes in every journal – but is everyone happy with results from baking soda products?

The History

When gum disease was first recognized as a dental problem, the suggested treatment was to cut the gums and reduce the depth of pockets around teeth. Dentists did not know this was an infection but believed poor brushing was the cause. They cut the gums to less than 4 mm (the length of a toothbrush bristle) assuming the toothbrush would now reach the bottom of the pocket. In the 1970s there was uproar when someone suggested a different approach and that bacteria were to blame for gum pockets.

Keyes Technique

In 1978 a dentist called Paul Keyes, working at the National Institute of Dental Research, caused this controversy when he used a special microscope to diagnose periodontal disease, identifying germs in gum pockets and suggesting the revolutionary idea of “non-surgical” treatment. Dr. Keyes used a mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, followed by systemic antibiotics. Even Keyes describes sensitivity following his treatment and suggested fluoride may help.

Emergency Mixture

A mixture of baking soda and peroxide had been used fifty years previously to treat ANUG, an ulcerative gum infection in the teeth of veterans living in the trenches of WWI. This mixture appeared to kill aggressive spirochete bacteria, allowing the gums to heal. Obviously baking soda may be a useful emergency treatment, but beware if you have sensitivity, enamel erosion, or gum recession after using it. Also be aware peroxide can release mercury from silver fillings, and both products may cause the edges of fillings to deteriorate.

What’s the Risk?

Over many years as a clinician I noticed baking soda connected with sensitivity, erosion, and gum recession – particularly in women with poor saliva or on mouth-drying medications. My hypothesis is that baking soda may damage the protein layer that protects teeth and gums from mechanical, thermal, and chemical assault. This layer is also important for attracting minerals to teeth, so its loss would cause sensitivity. I never recommend “sensitive” toothpastes because they are a panacea and not a solution, and I often wonder if there is some link between baking soda and the makers of these toothpastes!

Whitening Teeth

For a clean mouth I’d suggest you explore my Complete Mouth Care System and cultivate protective mouth conditions. I recommend patients use digestive probiotics because I believe it is impossible to enjoy mouth health without a healthy digestion. Oral probiotics may seem a good idea, but many contain artificial sweeteners like Splenda, that can damage gut health and even promote acid reflux. If you want an oral probiotic, I recommend Garden of Life Probiotic Smile lozenges, which contain strains of Streptococcus uberis KJ2, S.oralis KJ3 and S.rattus JH145, plus xylitol to feed probiotic bacteria. This product claims to safely whiten teeth because these probiotics produce a kind of hydrogen peroxide that comfortably and naturally whitens teeth, without the harsh and damaging chemicals found in other whitening products.


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Ask Dr. Ellie: Granular Xylitol

Ask Dr. Ellie: Granular Xylitol
  • When I search for “radioactive dental abrasivity comparison”, the original Crest comes up as rather high on the chart I found on a dentist’s website. While baking soda was ranked quite low. Is this incorrect?

    • “Low abrasivity” is a marketing tool that is often used by companies with a product that contains low abrasivity ingredients. The problem with baking soda is not its abrasivity but the fact that it can dissolve a vital protein layer off teeth and this may lead to gum recession and sensitivity.
      When gauging toothpaste abrasivity, the only number that matters is the number at which tooth enamel is damaged (around 110). This means that anything less than this number is perfectly safe, and lower abrasivity may not necessarily be an advantage. Remember marketers want to “sell” you on their low-abrasive products!
      The concerns is with toothpaste that has an abrasivity as high as 200 – which obviously is far too scratchy and can damage enamel. Most enamel damage, however, is caused by brushing in an acidic mouth. My system suggests using Closys as a pre-rinse before brushing.
      The Crest type that I recommend has an abrasivitiy of around 105…which is totally safe, plus the Closys creates a neutral pH before using it.
      This was a great question – thanks for asking it!

  • Greetings, I have dry mouth from radiation almost 20 years ago. Dental health has been an issue. I am going to try your system in the hope it will strengthen my teeth and coax my receding gums to reverse direction and maybe even grow back a little. My dentist suggested that I rinse with a baking soda solution to lower the ph in my mouth, one teaspoon to a cup of water. It certainly is cheap! But not if it is damaging. What are your thoughts? Thank you so much.

    • I am delighted that you plan to use Zellie’s and the Complete Mouth Care System. Be aware that xylitol is a key component of the system – and that every step must be followed exactly – or this will not work!
      I know baking soda is alkaline – but in my experience it exacerbates gum recession – and I would not suggest this. I think you are better with Zellie’s after every meal – and the system morning and night to smooth and strengthen your teeth. Here is a link to my blog posts about baking soda:

  • Thx I just know that using Baking Soda have a negative side effects . and for The mercury / amalgam Filling . They will make your body tired / easy to get sick , so stay away from that

    • The worst thing for amalgams is to use peroxide in the mouth – in any form. Peroxide as a bleaching agent or in a mouth rinse is a real problem because the peroxide CAUSES mercury to be released from fillings rapidly – so the fillings deteriorate and you are exposed to more of the toxin.
      My suggestion is to carefully consider what you are going to use to replace an old amalgam fillings – and only do this one tooth at a time – and finally be sure before you begin that you are in peak physical health.

    • For a consumer to find “the best products” for oral health is extremely difficult – possibly impossible – these days.
      In the 1960s there were only around 10 products to choose from – and I am lucky to have begun my observations back in those days! Now – especially in the US – there are so many choices – and so much marketing to sell products.
      I believe a great many products are harmful – but strong marketing makes it difficult for my lone voice to be heard.
      Thanks for your interest and support.

  • Do you have any experience or opinion on Tooth and Gums Tonic or Tooth and Gums Toothpaste with essential oils? What is your opinion of coconut oil for brushing or swishing?

    • I no longer try products randomly because I my mouth is no longer as young as it used to be, and I am lucky to have recovered mouth health after some of those experiences and experiments! On the other hand, I talk to many people and try to discover what they view as success. I view oral health success as a way to enjoy sustainable oral health year after year – without any need for dental interventions – no cleanings, no tartar build up, no fillings, perfect gums etc.etc. If you do not achieve these levels of success with the products you are using – I suggest you put them away for a while. Then experience the feel and results from using my Complete Mouth Care System for a period of 2 months. This way YOU can compare the benefits of the regimen against what you are currently using. I’d love to hear what you think about the system if you decide to give it a try. Here is a link to more information about the Complete Mouth Care System: LINK

  • It is true that baking soda can be detrimental and that home remedies might post risk for oral health without you knowing?

    • Yes -some home made toothpastes can erode, scratch or damage teeth and especially the protein layer that protects tooth enamel. Making toothpaste is not an easy task. If you have great teeth and need very little help from toothpaste, maybe a little xylitol on your toothbrush is all you need. Activated charcoal also seems harmless but makes your mouth turn black temporarily!
      If you have damaged teeth – my recommendation is to avoid any toothpaste that contains glycerin. There are a number of satisfactory pastes but I recommend paste with sodium fluoride – to help teeth repair.

  • Hey Dr. Ellie,

    I’m curious to know if you have personally tried the Garden of Life Probiotic Smile lozenges you mentioned or know anyone who has?

    Also, do you think a product like this is safe for someone with silver fillings? I’m very intrigued and may give the product a try.

    Thank you,

    • I have tried these, but honestly I don’t know if they added much to the way my teeth or gums feel ( since I have zero problems, no plaque, and I am happy with the color of my teeth from 30 years on my suggested system!).

      I always recommend patients start with a digestive probiotic. It may sound strange, but it makes more sense to get digestive health in tip top condition, along with good diet before using an oral probiotic.
      This is because many foods, when thoroughly absorbed, provide nutrients that are concentrated in salivary glands, and end up in saliva, to change the mouth conditions to naturally promote good oral bacteria (maybe the very same bacteria that are contained in oral probiotics). That’s why, unless you are after a quick “fix” for some reason, I’d only recommend oral probiotics as the “icing on the cake” and not a starting point.

  • Dr. Ellie,

    I was experiencing extreme tooth sensitivity when I started your superb Complete Mouth Care System. Prior to your system, I was using a full tube of sensitivity protection toothpaste per week. I also regularly applied a sensitivity reduction solution directly to my teeth. Nothing was working very well, so I decided to give your program a shot.

    The results were astonishing! Within three days, my tooth sensitivity completely disappeared. It’s now been over two years and my mouth feels wonderful!

    Thank you so much for freely offering an easy, effective, and affordable solution for my dental health. I think of you often and wish you the very best!

    John B.

    • I really appreciate your happy letter and thank you for taking the time to send it.
      I want so much to help patients enjoy the health benefits and sensory joy from a healthy mouth!

      I am also personally thankful to know about this system, because at my age I know – without it’s help – I would have cracked teeth, probably root canals, crowns, likely gum recession and other dental problems that are often blamed on the simple consequence of aging. I wish hygienists would recommend this system to people who cannot afford periodontal treatments, or to get fillings fixed. The system is easy but getting the information to a hurting public is our challenge. I’m so glad the message reached you.

      Thanks again for your message. Ellie

    • Yes, thanks for your question. I am tempted to try this product, because if it truly contains the same ingredients – then minus color is wonderful! You have to know that I swore my experimenting days were over. I decided this after testing bleaching strips and an awful toothbrush that stripped my teeth, but this could be a really great product – so I will certainly give this a try!

      I almost purchased a bottle of Listerine Natural yesterday – and because of your interest I will go today and get one! I’ll let you know what I think in about a month.I appreciate your interest in my opinion – thanks again!

      • THANKS SO MUCH! I have been using your system for a couple of years now. I am now wanting to rid my life of all artificial colors additives. (stopped dying my hair too!) I want the last two steps of your system to have “artificial color free” alternatives. Thanks for testing color free listerine. So…..what do you think of this color free flouride rince? The Natural Dentist Healthy Teeth Anti-Cavity Fluoride Rinse, Fresh Mint
        I found it at drugstore . com. They have several other brands, but this looks like it has better ingredients than most. And, MUCH better(healthier) ingredients than ACT!
        I guess I could buy some and test it and see if there is a difference in my teeth. I would test it with a PH strip first of course. Let me know if you will approve something that’s artificial color free for the last step in your system. thanks!

        • No – it is not the same. Stick to the original or cool mint if you want to include it as part of my system. Get your mouth healthy first and then you can try doing your own experiments and you will “feel” the difference and know what you will be missing if you mess with the selection I have suggested!

  • i used baking soda about 15 years ago because i thought it would whiten my teeth – big mistake. My gums receded and i may have scrubbed off the enamel in certain spots too because in the years that followed i got small cavities all along the gum line of most of my lower teeth on he outside, where i scrubbed the most. dentists i saw since then always told me that i was brushing my teeth too hard because all the gums had receded but it was the baking soda a had used for a few months many years ago.

    also, i dont see many recommendations on here about diet but getting enough minerals that your body can use, i.e. from vegetables, and not the indigestible and unassimilable rock forms that many multi-vitamin pills use because they are the cheapest. also good would be green powders like kelp powder, barley grass powder, wheat grass powder. if your saliva and blood dont have enough minerals in them to repair the teeth you will have problems as well and no amount of proper brushing or flossing will help in that case.

    also consider taking betaine hcl with every cooked meal as there may be evidence that it reduces plaque formation from what im hearing. seems to work for me and helps with morning breath too.

    • Thank you for your message – your story describes why I am so worried about the recent excitement about baking soda for oral care.
      I absolutely agree on the importance of diet and nutrition and in my next book I will be sharing more about the amazing connections between nutrition, digestive health, and oral health. You are also correct that supplements vary in quality and I personally recommend only those derived from whole foods. I have no experience with hcl – but I have heard a lot about it and its use for digestive health. Thank you again for your feedback – it was very interesting to know that you had this same negative experience with baking soda.

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