For generations, apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been celebrated as a home remedy. Although there’s not much science to support all the claims, ACV has been touted as a miracle cure for internal and external uses from relieving sunburn to treating acne to reducing the risk of heart disease.

ACV for teeth whitening is another popular folk remedy. Before using ACV for teeth whitening or other oral applications, you need information so you can make an educated decision.

Although fruit juices and soft drinks have been more widely studied, research shows that tooth enamel can be eroded by the acetic acid in vinegar.

A 2014 lab study focused on the immersion of tooth enamel in a variety of different vinegars with pH levels ranging from 2.7 to 3.95. After 4 hours soaking in the vinegar, a 1 to 20 percent loss of minerals was measured.

This lab study did not take into account the natural buffer against acidity provided by saliva. However, it does demonstrate that dental erosion can be caused by large amounts of vinegar.

A 2005 study concluded that reducing or eliminating acidic drinks can prevent the progression of dental erosion.

A 2012 case study concluded that the erosive tooth wear in a young woman was the result of her consumption of a glass of ACV that she drank every day for weight loss.

You can find many sources suggesting ACV either full strength, diluted with water, or mixed with other products such as baking soda as a way to whiten teeth. The majority of these sources do not include potential negatives of the practice.

A 2014 study examined the effects of apple vinegar, white vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide on tooth color and dental hard tissues. The study concluded that apple vinegar, white vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide all had bleaching effects.

But they also caused damage to the hardness and surface of teeth. White vinegar seemed to have the most damaging effects.

Basically, ACV is twice fermented apple juice. In the first step, yeast ferments the apples’ sugars into alcohol, turning it into cider. In the second step, bacteria convert the alcohol into acetic acid.

The finished product, ACV, has an average pH between 2.5 and 3.0. For comparison, distilled water, a neutral solution, has a pH of 7.0.

There is sufficient acid in undiluted ACV to weaken your tooth enamel. This can lead to tooth sensitivity while increasing chances for tooth decay and cavities.

Tooth enamel

Tooth enamel, the most highly mineralized and hardest substance in your body, is the outer surface layer of your teeth. It protects the inner layers of your teeth from temperature extremes and from the damaging effects of plaque and acids.

Your tooth enamel does not contain any living cells. So if it’s destroyed, your body is unable to make more to replace it.

Along with its potential effect on your teeth, it’s also worth considering whether ACV may interact with medications you take. For example, this may include:

  • Diuretic medication. Certain diuretics cause your body to excrete potassium. If you’re taking diuretic medication and consume large amounts of vinegar, your potassium level could drop too low.
  • Digoxin (Lanoxin). This drug is used to lower the potassium level in your blood. If you’ve been prescribed this medication, ACV could lower your potassium to a dangerous level.
  • Diabetes medication. If you’re taking insulin or insulin stimulants, vinegar may lower your blood sugar or potassium to a dangerous level.

ACV can whiten teeth, but it can also damage tooth enamel. There are also other concerns regarding ACV use, such as interaction with certain drugs.

If you’re considering using ACV for health purposes, such as whitening teeth, consult your dentist or doctor before trying it.

They can offer recommendations and guidelines for maximizing potential results without interfering with current medication, damaging tooth enamel, or causing any other health complications.