The Dark Side of the Apple: What Drinking Vinegar Means for Your Mouth
Alternative medicine is everywhere: acupuncture, herbal treatments, Reiki, electromagnetic therapy, Qigong and many more. I have, at best, a tenuous grasp on all of these practices. However, the use of apple cider vinegar as a “cure-all” beverage has been so prominent over the past six years that I couldn’t help but do some research on it.
I don’t use the term “cure-all” lightly, there have been some hefty claims about what apple cider vinegar can do for your health. Proponents of apple cider vinegar have said it can cure arthritis, cancer, head lice, poison oak, gout, tooth decay, high cholesterol, warts, athlete’s foot, acid reflux, diabetes and urinary tract infections. I enjoy a probiotic Kombucha every now and then, and love vinegar-infused foods, but I’m in it for the taste, not for the chance at these near-magical health benefits. There’s a longstanding debate regarding the actual benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar, but I’m here to dispel the myth that it cures tooth decay.
There are plenty of articles online that instruct you to use apple cider vinegar as a pre-brush mouthwash. These articles say by gargling and swishing the apple cider vinegar before you brush your teeth, you can help whiten your teeth and fight against tooth decay. The truth is this is the last thing you should do to promote oral health.
The danger apple cider vinegar poses to your teeth and gums comes from its high acidity. Braggs, the most popular brand of unfiltered and organic apple cider vinegar, clocks in with a pH level of 2.85. To put that in perspective, the pH scale runs from 1-14, any pH level lower than 7 is considered acidic. This puts apple cider vinegar above soda, about on par with lemon juice, and just under stomach acid and battery acid in terms of acidity.
Anything highly acidic like soda, grapefruit juice or apple cider vinegar that comes in contact with your teeth will wear down the protective enamel on them, leaving you far more likely to get a cavity. Simply drinking apple cider vinegar leaves your teeth in a dangerous position, but treating it like mouthwash and intentionally washing the vinegar over all of your teeth is even worse.
If you brush your teeth after using apple cider vinegar like mouthwash that will take the damage to an even greater level. Research done by the Mayo Clinic has shown that if you’ve consumed anything acidic to wait at least a half hour before brushing your teeth because of the weakened state of your enamel. Doing so before that will remove even more enamel. Regardless of the fluoride content in the toothpaste you’re using, the physical brushing against your teeth will do more harm than good if you don’t wait a little bit after eating or drinking.
If you still want to test out the potential healing qualities of apple cider vinegar, go for it. I haven’t done extensive testing on whether or not it cures a lot of the things people claim it does, but just know that it’s not going to fight tooth decay. If you do drink apple cider vinegar, dilute it in a tall glass of water for your mouth’s sake.