TikTok’s alternative soda trend could be tough on teeth

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acidic beverages tooth enamel
Photo: vladislavovich 123rf

New research from the US finds acids in sugar-free beverages could erode tooth enamel, as a recipe mixing flavoured sparkling water with balsamic vinegar to create a so-called ‘healthier’ alternative to soda takes TikTok by storm.

The research, published online in the open access journal JADA Foundational Science, adds to our understanding about the importance of limiting consumption of acidic beverages.

The TikTok video of adding balsamic vinegar (an acid) to flavoured sparkling water (an acidic beverage) recently received more than 6.3 million views. 

Acidic foods and beverages can wear away the enamel that protects teeth, a process known as tooth erosion. Tooth erosion is permanent and may open the door for bacteria to cause cavities or infection. It can also make teeth appear discoloured, as white enamel is worn away to expose the yellow layer below called dentin.

In the study, researchers from the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, wanted to see whether non-carbonated bottled water, flavoured sparkling water and plain sparkling water might cause dental erosion.

Recently extracted human teeth were soaked in seven different sugar-free beverages (and one soda with sugar for comparison) to see which, if any, beverages caused erosion. Teeth were exposed for 24 hours, which the researchers considered to replicate a year’s worth of exposure to these beverages.

When measuring the results of soda with sugar versus sugar-free soda, they found acids in both caused dental enamel to erode. Sweetener type was less of a factor, as it was the acid in the beverage that eroded the enamel.

Researchers also observed erosion in flavoured sparkling waters, though it was less than that observed for sugar containing and sugar-free soda. The only beverages in the study that did not erode enamel were non-carbonated, non-flavoured bottled waters.

While the TikTok recipe was not included in the study, it is similar to the other sugar-free, acidic beverages tested.

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