Baking soda does not directly remineralize teeth but it can help with the process by creating an environment that is conducive to remineralization. In other words, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) will indirectly assist with enamel remineralization.
Baking soda does not directly remineralize teeth
Baking soda will not remineralize your teeth directly because it does not contain any tooth minerals. Remineralization agents must contain tooth minerals in order to remineralize your teeth. Without the correct minerals, there will be nothing to remineralize.
For you to understand what we mean by needing the proper minerals for the remineralization process, there are two concepts that you should know about.
- When remineralization occurs.
- What the tooth minerals are.
When remineralization happens
Tooth remineralization occurs after the teeth experience an acidic challenge. That is when acids from foods attempt to dissolve the enamel via a process called demineralization. Your body tries to counteract that by undergoing remineralization.
Demineralization vs remineralization:
- During demineralization, the tooth loses minerals.
- During remineralization, the tooth regains lost minerals.
In summary, these two processes are on opposite ends of the same spectrum. After an acid attack that dissolves the enamel occurs, the body will try to repair itself by replacing the lost minerals via remineralization.
Therefore teeth begin to remineralize after it has demineralized.
During the demineralization and remineralization processes, the same tooth minerals are lost and regained. What are these minerals you ask?
Essentially what happens is that the tooth loses the minerals calcium and phosphate during demineralization. But during remineralization, the tooth regains those lost calcium and phosphates.
Therefore, in order for baking soda to possess the ability to directly remineralize teeth, it must contain calcium and phosphate. Unfortunately baking soda does not contain either of those, it only has sodium and bicarbonate hence why it is also known as sodium bicarbonate!
Ultimately, baking soda can’t remineralize your teeth directly because it does not have the building blocks for your teeth.
Is fluoride a tooth mineral?
Fluoride is not necessary for a tooth to exist. Teeth are fine as long as they have calcium and phosphate which when put together forms hydroxyapatite.
However, fluoride which is a naturally occurring mineral has a unique property where it can replace a hydroxyl group in hydroxyapatite and form fluorapatite. This new structure strengthens the tooth and makes it more resistant to acid attacks and cavities.
Since fluoride is often found in human dentition, we included it as one of the minerals for teeth.
Creates a conducive oral environment for remineralization
Despite baking soda not being able to remineralize teeth directly, it can however create an oral environment that is conducive to remineralization. You can think of it as indirectly assisting with the remineralization process.
How it creates a conducive environment:
- Sodium bicarbonate neutralizes mouth acids.
- Buffers oral environment by raising pH.
Baking soda does a superb job at neutralizing acids in the mouth and raising the mouth pH back to a neutral level. This is important because an acidic oral environment is when demineralization occurs. However, when the mouth re-enters a neutral pH, demineralization stops and remineralization starts.
Interestingly your saliva actually contains bicarbonate which is one of the three oral buffering systems. Therefore if you’re using a product which contains it such as baking soda, you’re actually helping your body out by supplying it with more bicarbonate to neutralize acids.
Three buffer systems found in saliva:
- Protein buffer
- Phosphate buffer
- Bicarbonate buffer
Evidence that baking soda does not remineralize teeth
Definitive proof that baking soda does not directly remineralize teeth can be found on all baking soda toothpastes. If you read the label carefully, only the fluoride within the toothpaste is listed as an anti-cavity agent. It is the fluoride that can prevent and reverse cavities which is essentially remineralization.
The reason that sodium bicarbonate is not listed as an anti-cavity agent is because it does not contain any tooth minerals that are necessary for reversing a cavity! Once again it does help in the process in an indirect way.
This applies to all baking soda products and not just toothpaste. If you were to make a mouth rinse with sodium bicarbonate, everything that we spoke about would still hold true. Therefore, even as a mouthwash it can indirectly help remineralize teeth but not directly.
With all that being said, it is of our opinion that baking soda products are still wonderful for you to use for your oral care. Even though it does not directly remineralize your teeth, most baking soda toothpastes do come with fluoride which can help with remineralization.
Therefore you’re really not missing out on too much when you compare it to a non-baking soda fluoridated toothpaste. Sodium bicarbonate use is still a tooth that can be used in how you can remineralize your teeth. An indirect effect is still much more helpful that a product that doesn’t do it.