Will Apple Cider Vinegar Harm My Teeth?

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a vinegar made from fermented apple juice. It's often added to salad dressings, preservatives, marinades, and more. It is also used as a traditional home remedy that is touted as having a wide range of beneficial health effects. Everything from acid reflux, sunburn, and even some types of cancer are believed to be treatable with ACV.

While many claims about it have been debunked or are lacking in evidence, a few studies have shown benefits for several conditions, including type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

In addition, apple cider vinegar is also used by some to perform at-home teeth whitening. While using solutions with ACV may have a bleaching effect on your teeth, it can harm the enamel (the hard outside shell) and may have other health effects.

This article provides an overview of how ACV teeth whitening works, what the risks are, as well as how to do it safely.   

a basket of apples sitting next to apple cider vinegar

Aniko Hobel / Getty Images

Does ACV Whiten Teeth?

Like other kinds of vinegar, ACV is highly acidic. The acetic acids in vinegar have a well-documented bleaching effect; regular treatments can effectively clear away some areas of staining and discoloration.

Additionally, as vinegar has an antimicrobial effect, ACV may help take on bacteria that form on your teeth. This means it may help take on plaque and tartar, which are frequent causes of tooth discoloration.

Typically, dentists recommend other methods of home teeth whitening as they tend to be more effective. Of course, there are also limitations to what you can do at home, and nothing will work better than having this done professionally.

Risks

Dentists are likely going to recommend against whitening your teeth with ACV. Though it may help brighten your smile, alongside other methods, the risks may outweigh the benefits. Prolonged exposure to ACV can damage tooth enamel, affect how your throat feels, and even interact with medications you’re taking. It’s important to understand these risks.

Erosion

The primary issue with using ACV for teeth whitening is its effect on your tooth enamel. Like acidic beverages, such as soda or coffee, apple cider vinegar can cause this outer layer to weaken and erode. Tooth erosion can lead to a host of dental issues, including:

  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Yellowish discoloration
  • Damage to dental fillings
  • Increased risk of cavities
  • Tooth loss

Throat Burn

Another potential issue with vinegar intake is throat burn. If you take too much or are unsafe about it, the high acidic content in ACV can injure the tissues of your esophagus (the inside of your throat) and cause stomach distress. In turn, this can cause you to have nausea, pain, and discomfort, and you may vomit blood. Notably, high acidic content in the stomach can make tooth erosion worse.     

Drug Interactions

Medications can also react poorly with high ACV consumption; however, the interaction is generally mild to moderate, with severe issues rarely arising. Especially if you’re taking high doses, be mindful and tell your doctor if you’ve been prescribed:

  • Digoxin: Often available under the name Lanoxin, this drug helps treat heart arrhythmia and high blood pressure. Long-term ACV use can lower potassium levels, which increases the risk of digoxin side effects.
  • Insulin: This drug, which is used to manage diabetes, can also lower potassium levels. Since low potassium levels are associated with tooth sing ACV at the same can become problematic.
  • Other antidiabetic drugs: Other classes of drugs that manage diabetes, such as biguanides, sulfonylureas, and thiazolidinedione (TZD), among others, can interact poorly with ACV. Taking these drugs alongside vinegar may lower blood sugar levels too much.
  • Water pills: Also known as diuretics, water pills help kidneys get rid of excess urine; they’re prescribed for certain heart problems, high blood pressure, edema, glaucoma, and other conditions. Like ACV, this can lower potassium levels, so co-use isn’t recommended.

Daily Intake

Specific dosages of ACV depend on the health condition being taken on. That said, overconsumption can be problematic; the greater the exposure, the greater risk there is of dental erosion, throat burn, and drug interactions. Aim for no more than 2 tablespoons (tbsp) a day (about 30 milliliters (ml) diluted in water, mixed in with salad dressing, or added to meals.   

How to Use ACV Safely

While the overall risks of ACV are mild, it can still damage dental and esophageal health when it’s highly concentrated. The risk of tooth erosion and other issues rises considerably when you use undiluted solutions regularly.

If you do want to try ACV to whiten your teeth, here’s what you can do to minimize the risk of damage:

  • Dilution: Create a diluted solution of one part ACV to two to three parts warm water. You may have to adjust the mix as the former’s acidity can vary between 4% and 8%. Make sure you know what you’re working with. Some add baking soda to the solution.
  • Swishing: In the same way that you’d use mouthwash, you swish the solution in your mouth for about 20 seconds at a time before spitting it out. You can repeat this a couple of times.
  • Cleaning: After you’ve gargled the ACV, make sure to brush your teeth and rinse your mouth out with water. You don’t want acids from the solution to be in contact with your teeth for too long.

Diluting ACV

Minimize the negative effects of apple cider vinegar by diluting it first with warm water. If you decide to try it for tooth whitening, use one part ACV to two to three parts warm water. After using it, make sure to brush and rinse to minimize damage to tooth enamel.

Home Remedies for Teeth Whitening

Using ACV is one of a couple of other home remedies for tooth stains and plaque build-up. Other at-home methods of teeth whitening include:

  • Teeth whitening strips: Available over-the-counter or online are a great range of teeth whitening strips or trays, made with carbamide peroxide, which contains hydrogen peroxide and has a bleaching effect. They have to be used as indicated and are worn for about 35 to 40 minutes a day.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: Hydrogen peroxide can break down the compounds that cause discoloration, but, like with ACV, it’s best to dilute it in water first. While a diluted solution swished as a mouthwash may help, gels or strips that employ hydrogen peroxide will likely work better.   
  • Baking soda: Often an ingredient in toothpaste, baking soda may also be helpful for tooth whitening and cleaning. This is mixed with water to create a paste to brush with. However, make sure to keep up with regular tooth brushing, too, so that your teeth get enough fluoride.  
  • Oil pulling: A method that has its origins in India, oil pulling involves swishing 1 tablespoon of an oil (such as sunflower oil) for 15 to 20 minutes a day. Unfortunately, there’s little evidence that this yields any benefits.  

Summary

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) fermented apple juice that is safe to consume within reason, such as with dressings or in marinades. Due to it's high acidity, ACV is not recommended for teeth whitening. If you use it, it is best to dilute it and ensure you are rinsing your teeth afterward.

There are better alternatives for teeth whitening, including the use of teeth whitening strips, hydrogen peroxide, or baking soda.

Always consult with your dentist before trying any teeth whitening solutions. They will advise you on the best method based on your oral care needs.

A Word From Verywell

Especially with the proliferation of information on the internet and social media, there seem to be countless claims made about ways to whiten teeth at home. And while ACV has shown some benefits, it's likely going to do more harm than good.

However, there are at-home options that are safer, and certainly other aspects of good dental health—keeping up with brushing and flossing, having regular cleanings—can help brighten your smile. What’s most important is that you care not only for the appearance of your teeth, but their health as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is “the mother” in apple cider vinegar?

    “The mother” is a conglomerate of the yeasts and bacteria that convert apple juice into apple cider vinegar. These microorganisms work to convert sugars into acetyl acid, which is essential for ACV’s taste and health effects. You’ll often see parts of the mother floating around in bottles of ACV.

  • What are the benefits of apple cider vinegar?

    As a traditional remedy with a long history, many claims are made about the health benefits of ACV. And while some of these have been largely debunked, there is some evidence that ACV can help with type 2 diabetes, weight loss, and high blood pressure. Additionally, vinegars may also have probiotic and antioxidant properties.

  • How is apple cider vinegar made?

    Apple cider vinegar is an apple juice that has undergone a two-step fermentation process. Basically, yeasts are introduced to the solution, which feeds on the sugars in the apple and produces alcohol. Then, bacteria are added to convert the alcohol to acetic acid (giving ACV its tang and bleaching effect).

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