A purportedly “healthier” alternative to sweetened soda — a drink concocted of sparkling water and balsamic vinegar — recently went viral on social media, prompting dentists to warn patients that high sugar and obesity aren’t the only risk factors associated with cola.
New research by the American Dental Association (ADA) reveals the dangers of consuming highly acidic beverages, particularly for tooth enamel.
Recipe and review videos for the bitter pop are trending on TikTok, with one controversial clip about the vinegar-and-soda combo earning 6.4 million views. The self-proclaimed “balsamic vinegar girl” said that her pilates instructor “drank it almost every day.”
But there’s a price to pay for binging on balsamic.
“I love balsamic vinegar, but I enjoy it more on my salad than in my drinking glass. It’s much kinder to the teeth than bathing them in a beverage blend of two acids,” said ADA spokesperson Dr. Edmond Hewlett in a statement with the new study. “The more acidic the drink, the greater the risk of tooth erosion with frequent consumption.”
Acidic food and drink — including vinegar, citrus fruits and other sour-flavored foods — can irreversibly break down tooth enamel, which protects teeth against erosion. Teeth with a weak enamel are more prone to cavities, sensitivities, infection and discoloration.
In a study of seven different sugar-free beverages, plus one soda with sugar, dental researchers found that those with sweeteners had less impact on the rate of enamel erosion than carbonated ones, according to experiments done on human teeth — disembodied, of course.
After soaking the chompers in various drinks for a period of 24 hours — simulating years of exposure to such beverages — they revealed acids as the culprit, as both sodas with and without sugar caused enamel decay. The only drinks found to be safe were non-carbonated, non-flavored bottles of water, whereas regular and diet sodas, as well as flavored sparkling waters, all lead to a weakening of the enamel.
The study did not include the balsamic-and-soda trend, but their findings do indicate that such a mixture could be damaging to teeth.
“People find carbonated beverages refreshing, especially this time of year. Enjoy them in moderation and preferably with meals,” Hewlett said. “But if you’re looking for a glass of something that is actually good for your dental health, regular water, including fluoridated tap water, or milk are always good options.”
The ADA doesn’t expect patients to prohibit pop altogether — so while you sip, keep in mind these tips to avoid enamel erosion.
Use a straw between your teeth, and swallow quickly.
Immediately following a fizzy beverage, rinse your mouth with water or consume dairy, such as milk or cheese, to neutralize the acids.
Brush your teeth about an hour later, giving your saliva a chance to clean up the residual acids. Hitting with toothpaste too soon could also wash away your spit’s healing properties.
Chew sugarless gum in the meantime to keep saliva flowing.
Consider dental products with enamel strengthening ingredients, bearing the ADA seal of approval on the label.
Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, floss regularly and limit cavity-causing food and drinks, including sugar and sodas.