‘Alternative soda’ hack trending on TikTok will erode your teeth, study warns

CHICAGO — A video claiming that the mix of balsamic vinegar and flavored sparkling water creates a “healthier” alternative to soda already has over 6.3 million views on the social media platform TikTok. Unfortunately, researchers from the American Dental Association warn that adding acids to sugar-free beverages will likely result in some major tooth enamel erosion.

“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,” says Dr. Edmond Hewlett, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association, in a media release. “The more acidic the drink, the greater the risk of tooth erosion with frequent consumption.”

Acidic foods and drinks can break down the enamel protecting our teeth. This process is known as tooth erosion – and it’s permanent. Once erosion occurs, there is no going back, leaving teeth much more vulnerable to cavities and infection-causing bacteria. Erosion can also leave teeth looking discolored; white enamel eventually disappears, exposing a yellow layer called dentin.

Study authors set out to determine if non-carbonated bottled water, flavored sparkling water, and plain sparkling water cause tooth erosion. To research this topic, the team soaked a collection of recently extracted human teeth in seven different sugar-free beverages (plus one sugary soda for comparison’s sake). They submerged the teeth for 24 hours while researchers watched to see which beverages caused erosion. The 24-hour period was selected for a reason; study authors say 24 continuous hours of exposure replicates a year’s worth of exposure to these beverages.

What would a year of drinking TikTok soda do to your teeth?

The acids in both sugary and sugar-free soda caused dental enamel to erode. The specific sweetener used in the soda didn’t seem to matter much. It’s the acid that is doing the eroding, according to the study authors.

Notably, erosion was also seen in teeth exposed to flavored sparkling waters, albeit less than what was seen for sugary and sugar-free soda. On a more positive dental note, non-carbonated, non-flavored bottled waters did not cause any enamel erosion whatsoever.

While study authors acknowledge that the exact “recipe” used in the TikTok video wasn’t included in their research, they explain it is quite similar to the other sugar-free, acidic beverages in their experiment.

“People find carbonated beverages refreshing, especially this time of year. Enjoy them in moderation and preferably with meals,” Dr. Hewlett adds. “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 study is published in JADA Foundational Science.

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