Disclosure: This article is sponsored by ARM & HAMMER™.
Some dental professionals believe that baking soda toothpaste is abrasive. This is empirically false, and, as a matter of fact, just the opposite is true. Baking soda toothpaste has some of the lowest abrasivity among commercially available toothpastes. If you are interested in what the science has to say, please read on.
Managing biofilm is the key to oral health as well as the prevention of periodontal disease and dental caries. Abrasive material is often added to toothpaste to assist in the mechanical removal and disruption of biofilm. Interestingly, evidence indicates “toothbrush abrasion” is often due to the abrasive levels of the toothpaste and not necessarily the toothbrush itself.1
Understanding the abrasive ingredients in toothpaste can help guide patients to the most efficacious toothpaste options with the lowest level of abrasiveness. Some of the more commonly used abrasives in toothpaste include hydrated silica, hydrated alumina, calcium carbonate, and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
The degree of abrasivity is determined by hardness, shape, size, and concentration, and this is measured and scored as the relative dentin abrasivity (RDA) value. The RDA value measures the erosive effects of abrasives in toothpaste on dentin. Toothpaste with higher levels of baking soda tends to have lower RDA values. Less abrasive toothpastes are especially important for patients with exposed dentin due to recession, as highly abrasive toothpaste can accelerate erosion and lead to further tooth damage.
Pure baking soda has an RDA value of 7, while toothpaste with 50% to 65% baking soda has an RDA value ranging from 35 to 53. Toothpaste with 35% to 45% baking soda has an RDA value that ranges from 57 to 134, and toothpaste with no baking soda tends to have an RDA range from 46 to 245. Low abrasive toothpaste is below 70 on the RDA value scale.1 Not all baking soda toothpaste is created equal; as you may have noticed, those with higher concentrations of baking soda tend to have lower RDA. Therefore, baking soda, one of the gentlest toothpaste abrasives, helps minimize wear on demineralized enamel and exposed dentin.
Baking soda acts in a manner that not only mechanically disrupts biofilm but also neutralizes acids produced by bacterial biofilm. This mechanism brings pH levels up quicker than toothpaste with lower levels or no sodium bicarbonate as an ingredient. The rapid return of a neutral pH level in the oral cavity following the use of bicarbonate-containing toothpaste facilitates more effective remineralization of incipient lesions.2
Additionally, when baking soda and fluoride are combined in toothpaste, it has the potential to help counter the effects of poor dietary choices, including the current high-sugar, high-carbohydrate diets that are often the most common cause of lowering the pH in the mouth and contributing to higher caries risk.3
As mentioned previously, baking soda helps remove plaque biofilm by two mechanisms:
- Penetrating and disrupting plaque biofilm as it disperses quickly throughout the mouth.
- Providing very gentle cleaning action to assist the toothbrush in plaque biofilm removal while maintaining the integrity of the tooth structure.1,3
Due to the dual mechanism of action, research shows baking soda toothpaste removes more plaque biofilm in hard-to-reach areas, with over 150% greater plaque biofilm removal on lingual surfaces when compared to non-baking soda toothpaste.4 Unlike most baking soda toothpaste, ARM & HAMMER™ toothpaste contains at least 20% baking soda in all of their formulas and has been proven to remove up to three times more plaque biofilm.5
As you can imagine, increased plaque biofilm removal will undoubtedly contribute to improved gingival health. Further support for improved gingival health with the use of baking soda toothpaste can be seen in the results of a study that compared baking soda-containing toothpaste and non-baking soda-containing toothpaste on the effectiveness of reduced gingival bleeding over a six-month period.
This study found that compared to non-baking soda toothpaste, 20% and 35% baking soda-containing toothpaste provided a 46.9% greater reduction in gingival bleeding at six months. Additionally, compared to non-baking soda toothpaste, baking soda toothpaste demonstrated a superior reduction in gingival redness and inflammation at six months.6,7
Though oral health is the main goal of most dental professionals, patients are always looking to whiten their teeth. Baking soda toothpaste can offer the best of both worlds. To summarize, baking soda toothpaste improves plaque biofilm removal and reduces gingival inflammation and bleeding while also maintaining the integrity of tooth structure with low abrasivity.
As a bonus, baking soda toothpaste provides highly effective yet extremely gentle whitening and is more effective at removing stains than non-baking soda toothpaste.8 A study published in 2012 showed that baking soda toothpaste produced 61% lower total stain scores versus non-baking soda toothpaste at six weeks.9
Baking soda toothpaste has many benefits and has long been misclassified as abrasive. If your patients are looking for a toothpaste with low abrasivity, effective plaque biofilm removal, decreased incidence of bleeding and inflamed gingiva, and/or effective whitening, baking soda toothpaste is a great choice. To ensure patients get the most out of their brushing, recommend a toothpaste with a clinically effective amount of baking soda from a trusted baking soda brand.
To learn even more about the science behind baking soda toothpaste and its clinical benefits, sign up for an ARM & HAMMER™ Lunch & Learn here.
- Hara, A.T., Turssi, C.P. Baking soda as an abrasive in toothpastes: Mechanism of action and safety and effectiveness considerations. J Am Dent Assoc. 2017; 148(11S): S27-S33. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29056187/
- Ciancio, S.G. Baking soda dentifrices and oral health. J Am Dent Assoc. 2017; 148(11S): S1-S3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29056183/
- Zero, D.T. Evidence for biofilm acid neutralization by baking soda. J Am Dent Assoc. 2017; 148(11S): S10-S14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29056184/
- Thong, S., Hooper, W., Xu, Y., et al. Enhancement of plaque removal by baking soda toothpastes from less accessible areas in the dentition. J Clin Dent. 2011; 22(5): 171-178. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22403983/
- Church & Dwight Co., Inc. (2021). Clinical, Toxicology and Safety Department Study Report Summary (ST-20-U81). Ewing, New Jersey: Church & Dwight Co., Inc.
- Church & Dwight Co., Inc. SLS Clinical Research Consulting, LLC, All Sum Research Center Ltd. N.d. Six-month Clinical Evaluation of Baking Soda Dentifrices on Gum Health.
- Ghassemi, A., Hooper, W.J., Vorwerk, L.M., et al. The effects of two baking-soda toothpastes in enhancing mechanical plaque removal and improving gingival health: A 6-month randomized clinical study. Am J Dent. 2020; 33(5): 265-272. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33017530/
- Li, Y. Stain removal and whitening by baking soda dentifrice: A review of literature. J Am Dent Assoc. 2017; 148(11S): S20-S26. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29056186/
- Ghassemi, A., Hooper, W., Vorwerk, L., et al. Effectiveness of a new dentifrice with baking soda and peroxide in removing extrinsic stain and whitening teeth. J Clin Dent. 2012; 23(3): 86-91. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23210419/