Baking Soda as a Tooth Cleaner
Before the advent of modern toothpastes, gritty agents (such as pulverized stone or salt) were applied to toothbrushes and rubbed on the teeth to get them clean. Around the turn of the 18th century, baking soda began to come into use as a tooth cleaning agent. When combined with hydrogen peroxide to form a "paste," it was an especially effecting cleaning teeth. Many families still use baking soda as the primary means of cleaning their teeth, because it is cheap and effective.
Baking Soda as a Tooth Whitener
Baking soda is an effective tooth cleaner mostly because of its abrasive properties. Things like coffee, tea and tobacco can stain the outer layer of the teeth. Baking soda can help whiten teeth by effectively scraping off these stains, as you would rub a stain off of a piece of clothing.
Teeth that are yellow, grey, or deeply stained will not be whitened by baking soda alone. In these instances, chemical agents developed specifically for tooth whitening are much more effective. In fact, most people depending only on baking soda for tooth whitening should not expect to see drastic results. But, for a quick brightening of your teeth, baking soda is a good way to go. It is safe and very inexpensive, if only slightly effective.
Drawbacks of Baking Soda Use
Because baking soda is abrasive, it is recommended that it not be used frequently because it can permanently damage your tooth enamel. It can also dissolve orthodontic fixatives, so those individuals wearing braces may want to avoid using baking soda altogether. Baking soda also has an unpleasant flavor, whereas toothpastes generally taste minty. Toothpastes also currently have ingredients in them that claim to whiten teeth. Most of these do so with products that are abrasive, but less so than baking soda and so are deemed safer for daily use. However, it is important to realize that for a drastic change, a product specifically designed to whiten teeth is going to be much more effective.