If you have any friends who are interested in alternative medicine, you’ve probably heard the words “apple cider vinegar” enough to last a lifetime. While you may already have it in your pantry as a cooking ingredient, in the last few years, it’s become a major health trend. Apple cider vinegar (known casually as “ACV” by its champions) has been hailed as a miracle cure for everything from acne to tooth decay. It’s celebrated as a weight loss solution and even as a natural cleaner for the home.
But despite the claims, an apple cider vinegar habit may do you more harm than good when it comes to your teeth.
The Effects of Acids on Teeth
Apple cider vinegar has even been touted as a tooth cleaner, which is especially egregious when you look at what vinegar is: An acid. On a pH scale, vinegars sit between a two and a three, alongside lemon juice and grapefruit juice.
Your tooth enamel is the strongest substance in your body, tasked with protecting the inner materials of your teeth from bacteria in the mouth. Acids can eat away at enamel, weakening it and exposing your teeth to cavities. You’ve heard that sugar causes cavities, right? That’s because the bacteria that cause cavities like to eat sugar, and when they eat sugar, they produce acids. That means that if you’re avoiding sugar for your dental health, you should also be on the lookout for acids for the same reason.
This is also why some acidic drinks, like coffee and red wine, are so effective at staining your teeth: Not only do they include highly pigmented particles, but their acidic nature weakens enamel so that those pigmented particles can get into your teeth and discolor them.
Since apple cider vinegar is so acidic, it erodes your enamel every time it’s in your mouth. For people who are on the ACV bandwagon, a daily shot of the stuff may be on their itinerary — which means a daily acid bath for your teeth.
What To Do About It
First of all, before you start up an apple cider vinegar habit to treat any of the broad number of ailments that people claim it can cure, it’s important to do your research and make sure these claims are backed up by evidence. Don’t put your oral health at risk for an invented cure!
If you are convinced that apple cider vinegar will cure your ills, it’s important to keep the stuff off your teeth as much as possible. Taking it as a shot can spare your teeth, but some experts say that makes it harder on the stomach. Instead, try diluting it into another drink (like water if you can stomach the taste) and drinking it through a straw so it gets delivered straight down your throat and bypasses the teeth.
And if you do drink something acidic, be that apple cider vinegar, orange juice, red wine, or coffee, make sure to wait to brush your teeth, otherwise you could do more harm than good to your newly-compromised enamel. Instead, try swishing with water immediately afterwards, and waiting at least half an hour to brush.