Tripped Up By Acid

Tripped Up By Acid

A patient asked me a few days ago if it was good for her teeth to be drinking water with apple cider vinegar every morning.  She was worried acid in the vinegar would wear away her teeth but she noticed an improvement in her digestion since using apple cider vinegar. The increasing popularity of drinking water with apple cider vinegar and citrus fruits for health benefits can be a concern for acid wear on our teeth.  

The acid in these drinks dissolve tooth enamel resulting in dentin exposure.  The dentin inner layer of teeth is yellow in appearance and contains many nerve endings.  When enamel is eroded away, the nerve endings in the dentin are suddenly feeling everything that goes on in our mouths; especially cold drinks and food. The teeth will look more yellow when enamel wears away so even if the teeth aren’t more sensitive, they may not look as nice.

But just because there is acid in these drinks does not mean they are necessarily bad for your teeth.  Factors such as the strength of the acid and exposure time will also play a role. The pH of apple cider vinegar is 2-3, making it a mild acid.

So for our patient who adds a few drops of apple cider vinegar to a large glass of water, the effect of the acid on her teeth are minimal because the acid is so diluted.  And if she drinks the glass of water within a short period of time, that limits the amount of time her teeth are exposed to the acid.

We would be concerned if a patient was drinking a lot more apple cider vinegar or if they sipped lemon water throughout the day and marinating the teeth in acid.  For these situations, it would be a good idea to use a straw to prevent the acid from contacting the teeth.  I would also advise patients to rinse their mouth with water afterward to neutralize the acid in the mouth.

The acid in our mouth can also be neutralized by certain foods such as hard cheeses. See what other foods are good for our oral health here.

As a side note, when it comes to carbonated sodas (even “sugar free” ones), energy drinks and fruit juices, these drinks will not only dissolve your enamel, the sugars in these drinks will also give you a sweet dose of tooth decay.  I would definitely recommend drinking these with a straw and rinsing your mouth with water afterward.

Phuong Luu, DDS