Vinegar for white teeth: does science support the method?

Medically Reviewed by a
Licensed DDS

Table of Contents

  1. Vinegar Teeth Whitening
  2. Vinegar Whitening Damage
  3. Alternatives to Vinegar
  4. References

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.

Beauty bloggers swear that vinegar can whiten teeth safely, but Experts don't agree because vinegar is acidic, and it can damage your teeth.

How vinegar hurts your teeth.

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.

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.

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.

The damage doesn't stop with your teeth. Experts say too much vinegar can also harm your:

  • Intestines
  • Skeleton
  • Throat
  • Skin

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.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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