(CNN)If you regularly enjoy coffee, tea, red wine and pastas with marinara sauce, you might be aware that these foods and beverages leave behind stains on your teeth well after they are consumed.
If you use salt or baking soda to whiten your teeth, here's why you should stop
But if you think you've found a whitening solution in the form of table salt (sodium chloride) or baking soda (another type of salt, sodium bicarbonate), think again.
"I see no clinical reason why someone would brush their teeth with salt," said Dr. Matt Messina, an Ohio-based dentist and assistant professor at the Ohio State University College of Dentistry. "There is no scientific evidence that brushing with salt has any sort of whitening effect on teeth."
The same can be said for baking soda, although there is more of a scientific basis to the value of using sodium bicarbonate to brush your teeth, Messina explained. It's a mild abrasive, and chemically also a mild bleach, which can neutralize cavity-causing acids. So when commercially available toothpaste didn't exist, he said, baking soda made sense for its ability to polish teeth and reduce acidity.
But that was then; today, you've got better options. In fact, exposing teeth to salt or baking soda could erode the tooth's surface enamel over time. Enamel is like the finished surface of a floor: It's a thin, hard outer layer that protects each tooth. When enamel is worn away by an irritant, such as salt, decay can occur as bacteria in plaque are able to penetrate teeth more quickly, where they produce acids that can lead to cavities.
Nerve damage can occur as well, and gums may become more sensitive, explained Dr. Gerald Grossman, a New York-based cosmetic dentist and diplomate of the American Board of Aesthetic Dentistry.