The new panacea for everything in life is apple cider vinegar (ACV). It can lower blood sugar, help with weight loss, and even remove laundry stains. Recently it has been taken to all new heights when it was discovered that it can make your teeth whiter.
You can literally find ACV everywhere, ranging from grocery stores to even dollar stores. Can this inexpensive bottle of salad condiment really whiten your teeth and how does it compare to traditional whitening products? Is it safe to use because it can be quite acidic so enamel erosion would need to be taken into consideration.
We’re going to explore all of these questions about apple cider vinegar. Then give you our verdict on whether or not this all natural product is a suitable alternative for teeth whitening.
How to use apple cider vinegar to whiten teeth
There are many ways to utilize ACV to whiten your teeth and the only limit is your creativity. However, we’ll describe a couple of easy and well known ways that others have used.
As a mouthwash
There is no premade mouth rinse which contains ACV but it is quite simple to make your own.
- Add 4 oz of water to a cup.
- Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
- Pinch of salt.
- Stir the mixture lightly.
- Rinse for about 1-2 minutes
- Spit back out and rinse thoroughly.
As a toothpaste
The recipe for this is similar to how you make a baking soda whitening toothpaste except you add ACV to the mixture.
- Add a teaspoon of baking soda into a bowl.
- Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
- Mix until a paste-like consistency.
- Apply mixture to your toothbrush.
- Brush for at least two minutes.
- Spit and rinse out thoroughly.
Applied directly onto teeth
- Pour some of the apple cider vinegar directly onto a cotton ball or pad.
- Apply directly onto teeth by light tapping.
- Wait 1-2 minutes.
- Rinse your mouth out thoroughly.
Can apple cider vinegar whiten teeth?
The American Dental Association (ADA) won’t even entertain the thought that apple cider vinegar can possibly whiten your teeth. They don’t even answer the question and flat out states that using it will erode your enamel. Therefore, prolonged contact time with your enamel or brushing with it will cause enamel erosion.
Apparently that point of view was not exclusive to the ADA because there were other studies which concurred. The general consensus is that peroxide-free whitening agents do not produce a bleaching effect.
The list of these ineffective non-peroxide agents are:
- Chlorine dioxide
- Sodium chloride plus vinegar
- Sodium bicarbonate
Essentially, they’re saying that the current literature does not support the use of natural agents as a dental bleaching material. You’re better off sticking with the tried and true hydrogen peroxide.
Research in support of its whitening ability
Not that we disagree with the ADA but it is unfair to simply dismiss it without presenting the other side’s perspective. The reason being that we did find two studies which showed that ACV was effective in bleaching teeth.
One study found apple cider vinegar and white vinegar did whiten the teeth. However a disadvantage was that the vinegars were more harmful to enamel than hydrogen peroxide. Peroxide is the primary ingredient in all whitening products, OTC and in-office.
A different study tested the whitening abilities of apple cider vinegar mixed with sea salt or baking soda. The mixture with sea salt produced a whitening effect while the baking soda one did not. Based upon this study, the toothpaste method where you mix ACV with baking soda will probably not make your teeth whiter.
Just to be clear, that second study also mentioned that the safety of using acetic acid which is the main acid in ACV should be explored. The study made no attempts at quantifying the effects of the acid on the enamel. Therefore you should take into consideration that while both of these studies demonstrated that it can whiten teeth, it can also damage your enamel.
Nonetheless it is fairly impressive just watching what apple cider vinegar with salt can do for a dirty penny. It seriously brightens it up in just a few minutes and here is a video demonstrating how it is done and what the results are.
How does it whiten teeth?
According to the Scientific American, vinegar polarizes stain molecules which become attracted to charged water molecules. Therefore the stains get pulled off when rinsed with water and that is how ACV whitens your teeth.
It seems to work well on dirt, mold, mineral deposits, and acid stains which includes coffee, tea and red wine. The ability to remove stains from those last three should make you jump for joy because they’re notorious for staining teeth.
How does it compare to other teeth whitening products?
Hydrogen peroxide will whiten teeth very differently than apple cider vinegar and it can remove a wider variety of stains.
The decomposition of hydrogen peroxide can produce free radicals when the peroxide bond (O-O) gets cleaved. These free radicals are powerful oxidizers that can diffuse through each layer of the tooth and oxidize all of the stains.
Hydrogen peroxide makes your teeth whiter when the radicals oxidize the double conjugated bonds in the stains. With the double bonds broken, the light absorption is decreased and light reflection is increased. The stains remain in your teeth but they just become “invisible” to the human eye so they appear whiter.
Therefore the way apple cider vinegar whitens your teeth is different from how peroxide does it. Which one is more effective? We don’t know because there aren’t any studies which have actually compared the two.
Is it safe to whiten teeth with apple cider vinegar?
Unfortunately all of the research is saying that apple cider vinegar is not safe for teeth whitening. Evidence of that can be seen in a case report about a 15 year old Moroccan girl with eroded enamel. The cause for the enamel erosion was traced to drinking a glass of ACV on a daily basis. That’s enamel damage without even trying to whiten them directly!
That’s not very surprising because ACV is acidic in nature and the main acid in it is acetic acid (pH = 2.4). There has been studies on the effects of acetic acid on human enamel.
- After 14 days of acetic acid exposure there was obvious enamel degradation.
- In the same amount of time, the entire crystalline structure of dentin was destroyed.
That is not good news in case you were thinking that ACV could be a viable teeth whitener. Nonetheless, it’s acidic properties are not exclusive just to apple cider vinegar but it applies to all types of vinegars. They are all erosive with some more than others and that was verified by a study that looked at 30 different types of them.
If you think about it, it makes sense because you’re purposefully subjecting your teeth to acid. That doesn’t sound good nor is it good for your mouth.
Should you use it to make your teeth whiter?
We would have to agree with the ADA and recommend against using apple cider vinegar to whiten your teeth. The two reasons are that it has no advantage over peroxide and it is more harmful to your enamel than it.
There weren’t any studies that we could find which proved that ACV was more effective at whitening teeth than peroxide. Then there is also the fact that peroxide based mouthwash and toothpaste aren’t even expensive! ACV doesn’t really have an edge over an already proven and established whitening agent like hydrogen peroxide.
For about $20 you can get both the optic white mouthwash and pro series toothpaste, which both contain peroxide. So, it’s not like it costs an arm and a leg to whiten your teeth legitimately. (The colgate optic white pro series happens to be the best whitening toothpaste on the market).
Lastly, there are a lot of studies which show how damaging the ACV can be for your teeth. In fact, there was even a study which said that it was more detrimental to your enamel than hydrogen peroxide was! We thought the all natural product should’ve been safer but apparently it wasn’t…
What if I only want whiten my teeth naturally?
Hydrogen peroxide is clearly the better choice for whitening your teeth but if you insist on using apple cider vinegar, you can still use it but you need to be careful. Here are some tips that you should definitely utilize if you’re going to whiten with it.
What you should do after the ACV treatment to minimize erosion:
- Rinse with baking soda for 1-2 minutes. The baking soda will help neutralize the acid and help prevent enamel erosion. In fact, it is the recommended rinse to use for morning sickness by the ACOG to neutralize stomach acids from vomiting.
- Wait 30 minutes. THis is to allow your mouth to further neutralize the acid on its own.
- Brush with a remineralizing toothpaste. Using either fluoride or nano-hydroxyapatite will help repair and strengthen the teeth after the acid attack. It’ll also help to neutralize any residual acids.
- Minimize acidic foods. Since you’re already subjecting your mouth to acids with this whitening, you should try to cut back on foods that are acidic. You don’t want too much acid in your mouth at one time!
If you follow the protocol above after doing your whitening treatment, it should help you minimize any potential damages. It does require a lot more work but your un-eroded enamel will thank you for it!
Apple cider vinegar can whiten your teeth but it is not safe for your enamel due to its acidity. In fact, it is actually more harmful to your teeth than hydrogen peroxide is.
Therefore we don’t think it is worth it to try apple cider teeth whitening since the peroxide-based products are safer and fairly inexpensive. For about $20 you can get your peroxide mouthwash and toothpaste so you might as well go with the safer option!