Can Oxalic Acid Harm Your Teeth?

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Medically reviewed by Danielle Romatz, RDH

Oxalic acid is a compound naturally occurring in many plants, such as spinach, that is also widely used in laundry products due to its bleach-like qualities. Consuming an acidic substance that’s also used on laundry might sound a bit scary. Is oxalic acid safe for your teeth?

Oxalic acid has acidic properties and can technically “chelate” calcium, which makes it harmful to teeth. However, it is very unlikely to cause any damage in the form that it appears in most foods. In fact, eating oxalate-rich foods may help reduce tooth sensitivity.

Although the thought of consuming an acid like oxalic acid is understandably concerning, the way it appears in some of our favorite leafy greens and other foods is nothing to worry about. Let’s take a look at why that is.

Which Foods Have Oxalic Acid? 

Woman eating healthy salad

Leafy greens, lentils, and most other plant foods contain oxalate, also known as oxalic acid. It’s a naturally occurring substance that you get from your diet, and it’s not harmful in small amounts. 

Oxalic acid is also excreted by the body as waste. Oxalate-rich foods also include a variety of additional nutrients that your body requires for optimal health. The following foods have oxalic acid:

  • cocoa powder
  • leafy beet greens
  • rhubarb
  • spinach
  • potatoes
  • swiss chard
  • endive
  • cocoa powder
  • star Fruit
  • turnip greens
  • nuts

When oxalic acid reacts with other minerals, oxalate is formed. The two names are frequently used interchangeably to refer to the same item. Oxalate is produced by the body and it is also obtained from the diet. When your body processes vitamin C, it converts to oxalate.

What Does Oxalic Acid Do to Your Teeth? 

Oxalic acid has properties that technically can chelate calcium; however, in foods like spinach, the oxalic acid is tightly bound to other minerals — iron and calcium — and is therefore not able to take away calcium from your enamel.

Oxalic acid’s calcium-binding characteristics make it possible to coat small crystals on the surfaces of your teeth, giving you that gritty, fuzzy feeling around your teeth. This is also how most dental treatments for tooth sensitivity are administered by your dentist.

Oxalic acid can help lessen tooth sensitivity if it is added to your diet. This is because it can close up the dentinal tubules that cause your tooth sensitivity. Oxalic acid is non-corrosive to teeth, braces, dental implants, and dentures.

However, if you are at a high risk of developing kidney stones, limit your oxalic acid consumption. 

Consumption of foods rich in oxalic acid can cause the production of calcium oxalate stones, the most common kind of kidney stone. Avoid foods high in acids, such as rhubarb, strawberries, chocolate, and spinach, to mention a few.

How You Can Remove Oxalic Acid From Your Teeth? 

Woman hands holding salad bowl with eating tomato and various green leafy vegetables on the table at the home

Since oxalic acid is a compound that mixes with the calcium in your mouth, drinking water rarely gets rid of the feeling of gritty teeth (also known as spinach mouth). You can brush your teeth or eat your greens with lemon juice.

If your teeth are exposed to oxalic acid, you can get rid of the oxalic acid from your teeth by doing the following:

  • When you gargle with water or use a fluoride mouthwash, like ACT (on Amazon), you can help get rid of the oxalic acid and keep your teeth from decalcifying.
  • Using sodium bicarbonate to rinse your mouth can also help to remove oxalic acid from your teeth. One teaspoon of baking soda should be dissolved in a glass of water for this purpose.
  • Using dairy products in one’s diet can also help protect the teeth from oxalic acid.

You can also do the following to reduce tooth decay:

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush, like the Oral-B Pro Health Soft Toothbrush (on Amazon), and fluoride-containing toothpaste to clean your teeth.
  • Brush your teeth softly but completely after each meal.
  • Before brushing your teeth, make sure you’ve neutralized any acid such as oxalic acid in your mouth.
  • Floss regularly.

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