Q: I read on the internet that I can use baking soda instead of toothpaste. Is that a good idea?

 A: I seem to be encountering patients using alternative ways to clean their teeth on a regular basis more than ever before. I attribute this to social media and other internet forms of information. I have even seen ads for “dirt” toothpaste! Over the years various forms of toothpaste have come and gone. My best advice is this. Commercially available toothpaste like Crest or Sensodyne are made to be mild sudsing agents to clean teeth using the mechanical action of your toothbrush. ( By the way, I only recommend soft toothbrushes.) Many “alternative toothpastes tend to be more abrasive, with ingredients like baking soda, mica, diatomaceous earth, and charcoal. These can clean your teeth well, but can also lead to abrasion, discoloration from thinning enamel, and sensitivity.

 Also, fluoride is an important ingredient put into toothpaste to help prevent cavities. You would not get that if you were only using baking soda. The fluoride in toothpaste is a topical form that strengthens your teeth in your mouth, as opposed to the fluoride we give to children to help strengthen the developing permanent teeth.

If you have great hygiene habits, which include daily flossing and brushing twice a day for two minutes, and also have a low sugar diet, you may be able to get away with brushing with an alternative toothpaste which does not have fluoride. For everyone else, just use the regular toothpaste and strive for great oral hygiene. There are no shortcuts.