Vinegar for White Teeth: Does Science Support the Method?
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Table of Contents
- Vinegar Teeth Whitening
- Vinegar Whitening Damage
- Alternatives to Vinegar
Should your search for a whiter, brighter smile begin and end in your kitchen cupboard? Listen to beauty bloggers, and you may believe that apple cider vinegar is all you need to whiten your teeth safely at home.
Researchers say that vinegar can whiten teeth. But the substance works due to its acidity. That same trait can wear away tooth enamel and harm the health of your smile.
It's not safe to use vinegar to whiten your teeth. And unfortunately, many DIY products come with the same tooth-harming traits. If you want a whiter smile without tooth damage, work closely with a dental health expert to find a solution that's right for you.
Vinegar can whiten teeth.
Vinegar is a common household product, and chances are, you have at least two types of it at home. One is white, sold in large jugs, and often used in canning projects. (You might haul it out to color Easter eggs too.)
The other is apple cider vinegar. When people discuss vinegar solutions for teeth, it's this amber-colored fluid they often refer to.
Apple cider vinegar has become the darling of beauty bloggers around the world. A quick online search brings back hundreds of articles about how this liquid can brighten skin, ease digestive distress, and make hair gleam.
Bloggers also say that the substance can brighten teeth. Typically, they recommend:
- Brushing with vinegar. Instead of using plain water for your daily toothbrushing regime, you'll use vinegar.
- Rinsing with vinegar. If mixing minty paste with vinegar doesn't seem appealing, you might be encouraged to swirl the stuff around your teeth when brushing is done.
- Creating a paste. Some bloggers recommend mixing vinegar with baking soda and applying that paste to your teeth.
- Drinking vinegar. Some claim that a sip or two of vinegar can brighten teeth while offering other health benefits.
Researchers say apple cider vinegar can whiten teeth. In one study of cow's teeth, researchers found that apple cider vinegar was as effective as hydrogen peroxide in bleaching and whitening teeth.
But studies like this can be misleading. Researchers are working with teeth no longer connected to underlying structures, like blood vessels and gums. It's hard to know if the results seen in a lab are the same as those you see in a mirror.
Researchers also can't determine if teeth are damaged after vinegar treatment.
How vinegar hurts your teeth.
The extent of damage to your teeth is based on the type of vinegar used. The following is the breakdown on the two main types of vinegar and how they can hurt your teeth.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a natural product made through a process everyone understands. But even natural products can damage delicate structures like teeth and gums.
Apple cider vinegar is fermented apple juice, and the final product has an average pH between 2.5 and 3, experts say. Fluid like this is classified as an acid. Prolonged contact with your teeth and an acidic compound like apple cider vinegar can dissolve the enamel of your teeth and cause tooth decay.
Teeth in acidic environments move through a process called leaching. Vital minerals leave the solid part of the teeth, and they bleed into the surrounding liquids. Holes appear within the teeth, and they grow with time. Keep applying acids, and the teeth will disintegrate.
You may not notice the damage at first. But in time, your teeth might seem more painful or sensitive.
Your teeth do best in a neutral environment, dentists explain, and your body is well equipped to supply it. If you take in something acidic, like a fruity snack, your saliva will undo the damage quickly. But bombard your body with endless acidity, as you would if trying to whiten teeth, and damage will appear. So, if you brush your teeth with apple cider vinegar, for example, the acid stays on your teeth for longer than when you eat something acidic, which can erode the enamel.
Just like with apple cider vinegar, white vinegar is also an acidic product, and it can cause even more damage to your teeth than apple cider vinegar. While white vinegar can effectively change the color and bleach your teeth, it can also make them softer by eating away the hard outer layer (the enamel).
Exposure to white vinegar can soften your teeth more quickly and cause more erosion to the enamel in a shorter amount of time. Eroded enamel can increase your risk for tooth decay and cavities.
The damage doesn't stop with your teeth. Experts say too much vinegar can also harm your:
Whether you drink it, swill it, or apply it topically, vinegar can do a lot of damage to vital structures. It's not a safe product to use liberally.
Other ways to brighten your smile.
The internet is filled with articles about how to brighten your smile with natural products. From baking soda to vinegar to lemon juice, people are looking for ways to make their whites bright without getting an expert's help.
The American Dental Association recommends these at-home tooth-whitening steps:
- Brush your teeth. Aim for two, 2-minute brushing sessions each day.
- Choose the right product. A whitening toothpaste can be helpful.
- Floss your teeth. Carefully floss between your teeth each day to remove trapped food and reduce decay.
- Avoid stains. Don't smoke, and limit your intake of coffee, tea, and red wine.
- Visit your dentist. Regular cleanings could stop plaque from building, and that could keep your teeth whiter.
But if these steps don't help, a dentist might have a good solution. For example, if you're working with a dental expert on straighter teeth, you could have the tools you need in your home.
Aligners snap onto your teeth and gently push them into proper positions. They also cover your teeth from root to tip. Filling those trays with a whitening solution could help you bleach out impurities and whiten your smile as you straighten your teeth.
It's critical to stick to products your team recommends. Some over-the-counter products can harm your aligners. But if your team gives you a whitening product, this could be just what you need to make your teeth whiter safely.
Effects of Vinegar on Tooth Bleaching and Dental Hard Tissues in Vitro. (November 2014). Journal of Sichuan University.
Natural Teeth Whitening: Everything You Need to Know. (May 2021). Forbes Health.
Ask the Dentist: Little Evidence Apple Cider Vinegar Aids Health, and It's Bad for Teeth. (February 2019). The Irish News.
Natural Teeth Whitening: Fact vs. Fiction. American Dental Association.
Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Apple Cider Vinegar? What an Expert Says. (April 2018). POPSUGAR.
Your Apple Cider Vinegar Habit May Be Ruining Your Teeth. (February 2018). SHAPE.