Is sparkling water good for teeth?
Sparkling water is a satisfying fizzy option that many people choose instead of plain water, to ‘spice things up’ when getting in those mandatory 8 glasses a day. It is calorie-free, with the fizziness of a soda.
However, it is acidic because of the carbonation process to convert natural spring water into bubbles. And acid erodes teeth enamel, according to Mouth Healthy.
So, sparkling water isn’t necessarily good for you right off the bat. Still, it is better than sugary soda drinks, fruit juices, sports energy and bottled flavoured waters because they contain additives. The pH level of such beverages is 2 to 4, while even non-fizzy bottled water has a pH level of 5 to 7.
The bottom line is that plain unsweetened sparkling water does not contain any additives, which means that it is better than most, despite a ranking of about five on the acidic side of the pH scale. But err on caution’s side and drink in moderation.
However, the dentists say no other drink is as good as plain water, which has a pH balance of 7.
The science of sparkling water
Turning plain water into sparkling water involves carbonation, a chemical reaction where low temperatures and high pressure are manipulated to force carbon dioxide gas to dissolve into water.
This carbonation process results in carbonic acid, which causes the sparkling water to have a lower acidic level of around five. Note that a sour/ acidic drink or food can erode the enamel of your teeth.
According to the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, flavoured sparkling water, especially those infused with citrus flavours such as lemon and lime, can erode teeth similar to orange juice, eroding enamel.
The study found that adding lemon, lime and grapefruit and its citric acid to sparkling water and carbonic acid forms a lethal cocktail of teeth erosive flavours.
Another study found that plain mineral water and sparkling water pose risks to your teeth, but you would have to orally (without a straw) consume a lot of sparkling water over a very long period to see the negative impact. This would be equivalent to your drinking sugarless fruit juice.
Signs of enamel erosion
If you’re going to risk putting your teeth enamel at risk, you need to know what the warning signs are.
Because enamel erosion is usually slow, few people worry about the condition and focus mainly on avoiding the pitfalls of cavities and gum disease.
This is what you should look out for:
- Notches or areas of erosion at the neck of the tooth
- Tooth sensitivity to cold or hot foods
- Yellowing or darker teeth when the white, shiny enamel wears away. This exposes dentin which is the main structure of the tooth.
How to drink sparkling water
Much as you would like to spend your workday guzzling a 1.5-litre bottle of sparkling water, you have to keep in mind the theoretical risk of dousing your teeth in acid.
According to West Ryde Dental Clinic, this is what you should do to offset any potential harm being done to your teeth:
- Don’t swish the drink: if you take a sip of your acidic drink and you swish it around your mouth several times a day, that spells disaster for your teeth enamel.
- Drink only plain sparkling water: Avoid flavoured sparkling water which not only contains sugar and carbonic acid but may also contain citric acid, caffeine and sodium.
- Read the labels: Don’t buy the bottle that says sodium and sugar. A relatively safe water bottle should say spring water with balanced mineral salts. The label should say that filtered and carbonated at the top of the list of mineral salts in milligrams which include: calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, sulphate, alkalinity as CaCo3, nitrate, fluoride and pH.
- Use a straw: By using a straw for drinking your carbonated drink and any other sugary beverages, it shields your teeth by reducing contact between the lethal brew and your tooth enamel.
- Flush it away with water: Drink a glass of plain water after drinking your sparkling water or any other risky drink, as this will rinse the teeth, thereby preventing erosion of the enamel.
- Drink in moderation: Limit your intake of sparkling water to mealtimes. Saliva production increases when you’re chewing, which would help protect your teeth from the effect of acid.
- Cleansing: Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after drinking your sparkling water. The enamel will be in a weakened state, so rather wait 30 to 40 minutes before brushing your teeth.
- Cucumber: After drinking an acidic beverage, you could try neutralising the acidity in your mouth by holding a cucumber slice in your mouth. Cucumber hydrates and alkalises any acidic condition in the body.
It is also helpful to know what drink contains what. Club soda contains sodium, tonic water is carbonated and has a bitter compound called quinine, sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
While sparkling waters like Valpre, Perrier, San Peregrino are captured from mineral water and contain minerals and sulfur compounds.
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