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Is Kombucha Destroying Your Teeth?

Kombucha has soared in recent popularity for its many claimed health benefits.  But kombucha is not a new drink.  Historical records show the use of “fermented teas” as far back as the year 200 B.C.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a sweetened green or black tea, which undergoes a process of fermentation.  This fermentation, carried out by a combination of bacteria and yeast, breaks down the sugars into probiotic bacteria.  The end product is a carbonated (fizzy) probiotic drink.

What are the Health Benefits of Kombucha?

Fans of kombucha claim a wide range of health benefits.  It naturally contains the same benefits as tea, plus the probiotics produced by the fermentation process.  It is also rich in antioxidants.  These benefits include:

What are the Health Risks of Kombucha?

Drinking store-bought kombucha is relatively safe.  Some of these contain a high amount of added sugar, so it is important to read the label.  Store-bought brands of kombucha contain less than 0.5% alcohol.  As long as they are properly stored, there is little risk to your health.

However, some serious health concerns and even deaths have occurred as a result of contaminated or over-fermented kombucha.  Homemade recipes also can end up with an alcohol content as high as 3%.

Why is Kombucha Bad for Your Teeth?

Kombucha is a Strong Acid.

The most dangerous aspect of kombucha to your teeth is its strong acidity.  Kombucha must be below a pH of 3.5 in order to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.  Average pH measurements of kombucha fall between 2.5 to 3.5 on the pH scale.

One website states that the brewing cycle of kombucha is complete when the pH level drops to 3.

There are two dental risks associated with strong acids:

1) Cavities,

2) Acid erosion.

Both of these risks result from one important characteristic of enamel.  Enamel is the hardest substance in the body.  It is harder than bone.  But it is not impenetrable.  Enamel becomes vulnerable to penetration by cavity-causing bacteria at a pH level lower than 5.5.

Anything that lowers the pH in your mouth below 5.5 increases your risk for getting cavities.  This includes sodas, lemon juice, sparkling water, and kombucha!

The second risk of a low pH in the mouth is acid erosion.  Acid erosion is the gradual wearing away of enamel or other tooth structure by consistent exposure to a strong acid.  The enamel becomes thinner and thinner over time until it is missing in certain areas, exposing the dentin core structure of the tooth.

Acid erosion affects more than just the teeth.  It affects existing dental work, too.  Erosion can break down the edges of fillings and crowns, allowing saliva and bacteria to leak underneath.  The risk of acid erosion is serious, even in a perfectly clean mouth with very little bad bacteria.  If you perform the very best oral hygiene at home and never miss a dental cleaning, acid can still wreak havoc on your mouth.

Kombucha Contains Added Sugar.

Many store-bought brands contain added sugar.  It is important to read the label to determine the sugar content.  Many servings have up to 10 grams per serving, and a bottle can contain 2-2.5 servings.  This means one bottle can have 25 grams of sugar, which is as much as some sodas!

Most people know that a high sugar diet makes you more likely to get cavities.

The bad bacteria naturally present in mouths live on sugar.  They eat simple carbohydrates and produce acid as their by-product.  A high sugar diet feeds these bacteria, making them stronger and allowing them to produce more acid.  We have already shown how damaging acid is to the teeth, even in the absence of bacteria.  In the presence of those bacteria, this acid creates cavities.

How Can You Enjoy the Benefits of Kombucha while Minimizing the Risks?

  1. Drink it quickly. The risk of acid exposure to the teeth increases with the length of time of that exposure.  Absolutely do NOT sip on kombucha throughout the day!
  2. Skip the homemade kombucha recipes. Not only is it an arduous process, there are more risks for complication among homemade kombucha.
  3. Read the nutritional label on store-bought kombucha. Look for the brand with the lowest sugar content in order to lower the cavity risk associated with this drink.
  4. Follow any kombucha with a thorough swishing of neutral or alkaline water. It is important to return the pH of your mouth to neutral as quickly as possible.
  5. Know your cavity risk. If you are prone to cavities, kombucha is not a good idea.  If you do not know your risk, ask Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren.  They will help you decide if you should drink kombucha.
  6. Keep your teeth and gums as clean as possible with great home care. If you want to drink kombucha, you may need to up your oral hygiene game.  Removing as much bad bacteria (plaque) from your teeth as possible lowers your overall cavity risk.
  7. Never miss a dental visit. In order to stay on top of the health of your teeth, your risk for cavities, and the risk of acid erosion damaging your teeth and/or dental work, you need a professional check-up and cleaning on a consistent basis.  Make sure to stick to the recommended schedule with your dentist and dental hygienist.

Do You Have More Questions about Kombucha or Any Other Health Trend?

Call today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren.  They can assess your risk levels and help you make the best choices for your dental health.