As drinks like Perrier, Pellegrino, and LaCroix rise in popularity (in fact, sales have doubled over the last five+ years), many want to know: do these fizzy drinks really wear down tooth enamel? Are seltzers and club soda really bad for your teeth? Well, as with most health related items, it depends. Read on to see what your downtown Portland dentist Dr. Jason Bajuscak, says about sparkling water and your teeth.
First The Why
Where tap water has a natural pH level of 7, when you add those fun little bubbles that we all love, the carbonation brings that pH level down to a 3 or 4. By adding flavoring with citric acid, like those used to make orange, lemon, or lime tasting sparkling waters, the pH can further drop to a 3 or 2.5.
The Culprit: Carbonic Acid
When you drink the CO2 in these seltzers, a unique chemical reaction happens in your mouth and turns them into carbonic acid. This adds that tangy flavor and zing, but also makes it acidic. Carbonic acid has been shown to slowly wear away enamel on teeth. In fact, in a 2007 study, scientists exposed teeth to flavored fizzy water for half an hour and found the effects to be as destructive as orange juice to teeth enamel.
Dentists and doctors already know that an unusually acidic oral environment can result in more rapid teeth enamel erosion. Since the enamel’s main job is to guard your teeth against the battery of everyday wear, when we break that barrier down, it can lead to serious issues like chipping, cracking, sensitive teeth, decay, and cavities.
Seltzers and sparkling water are still much better than soda, soft drinks, and even energy drinks for teeth, though. Those carbonated treats can hover in the 2 – 2.5 pH range and are packed with sugars we all know can wreak havoc on your pearly whites.
Better Options: Mineral Waters and Good Old H2O
If you are worried about the effects of seltzer water on teeth, it can make a difference what kind of fizzy water you drink. Some mineral waters, like San Pellegrino, which has natural carbonation, is closer to flat water pH, and Perrier, which hovers at about 5.5 pH are better choices.
It’s also not just seltzers that can cause tooth decay – other dietary factors can also make a difference. Things like how much sugar and acid you already drink and eat as part of your usual nutrition, your oral history, and fluoride intake, can also be factors in wearing down tooth enamel.
It is also wise to limit the number of sparkling waters per week, as a pack a day habit may indeed cause harm. But if you’re only having a few fizzy drinks a week, there is no cause for alarm. It’s true you would have to consume a lot of seltzer water over a long period of time to do any serious damage to your teeth. Making sure you are drinking these types of drinks with meals can also help mitigate some of their damaging effects. Swishing with water after you drink and even chewing a piece of sugar-free gum with xylitol in it for a couple of minutes can also help.
If you have more questions about whether sparkling waters and seltzer are affecting your teeth, please give our downtown Portland Dental office a call to schedule an appointment.