If you’ve ever had a friend offer to take you to a yoga class with them, you’re probably aware of what Kombucha is. The fermented tea is touted as an alleged godsend for gut health for its alleged probiotic content. Clearly it must be great for you, right?
Certainly not if you ask a dentist, at least. According to multiple people who look inside people’s mouths for a living, Kombucha can contribute to rotting teeth thanks to its high levels of acidity. Kombucha you’d buy in a bottle has a pH level at or below 3.5 (with some brews going under 3 on the 0 to 14 acid-base scale), which is necessary to prevent the formation of harmful—rather than helpful— bacteria in the beverage.
When viewed through the lens of acidity, Kombucha is almost indistinguishable from other drinks one would hardly describe as healthy.
Watch: What is Kombucha?
“Kombucha is nearly as acidic as a pop and energy drinks,” Dr. Bobby J. Grossi, a dentist who clearly lives in the midwest, told Salon. “Acidic drinks mess with the PH level of the saliva which ideally should be 7 or 7.3, when the saliva level becomes more acidic it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria which can take over the mouth.”
So what exactly happens to your teeth when you drink Kombucha, according to Larry D. Molenda, a dentist with a blog, the acidity wears down your teeth’s enamel, the strong, mineralized layer that protects the more sensitive bits underneath.
As Molenda puts it, introducing acidity into the equation is bad news. “Acidic substances are like the kryptonite to your enamel because the erosion caused by those substances are its biggest weakness,” his blog reads. “Your mouth is already a place full of bacteria and when you introduce acidic substances, especially ones containing sugar, those bacteria go crazy and start attacking your tooth enamel.”
So is sipping on the ‘booch totally unsafe for your teeth? It doesn’t have to be. It’s all about trying to reset the pH balance in your mouth as quickly as you can afterward. That can be done by swishing some water (pH of 7), or pairing your kombucha with foods lower in acidity (Molenda mentions cheese, nuts, and eggs as good options). Also try to keep the sugar content in your kombucha of choice as low as possible.
So, yeah. Kombucha might make your gut feel good, but it’s hell on your teeth if you aren’t careful. Proceed to consume your favorite probiotic beverage with caution.
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