Recent headlines would suggest that sparkling water (carbonated water) might not be such a great alternative to just plain old water. But is bubbly, carbonated water really that bad?
Before bubbly water enthusiasts panic, it is important to note that while headlines denouncing this or that beverage or food can make for splashy headlines (pun intended) the truth rarely lives up to the eyeball-grabbing titles. Fact-based and evidence-supported science is what any good dentist, surgeon, or medical professional will adhere to by looking strictly at the facts.
So, with the hype put to the side, for now, let us dive in.
Sparkling Water vs. Plain Water
What we know about sparkling water (or carbonated water), compared to plain water, is that it is generally more acidic.
Furthermore, flavored sparkling waters, which typically contain citric acids, can be even more corrosive.
However, compared to a soda, coffee, tea, juices, and any number of other popular beverages with the exception of purified water, the acidity of sparkling water seems downright trivial. Unfortunately, while those other beverages might be very bad for your teeth, acidity in sparkling water can still be damaging.
When imbibed every day, the carbonic acid in sparkling water, which gives it its satisfying fizz, can still gradually wear away your enamel. One study, for example, demonstrated that when dental enamel is exposed to sparkling water for 30 minutes, the corrosive effects were roughly similar to those of extremely acidic citrus juices. While most people aren’t soaking their teeth in sparkling water baths for 30 minutes at a time, the study does demonstrate that sparkling water does indeed corrode teeth. Ultimately, sparkling water is generally more acidic than plain still water and will, therefore, erode enamel over time.
Understanding Acid Corrosion
Acid is the bane of teeth. Most people consider harmful oral bacteria the progenitors of dental decay and the ultimate enemy. However, these destructive microbes don’t directly attack teeth as they are often portrayed too. Rather, they harm teeth, and in particular the protective enamel and dentin layers of the teeth, through the acidic byproducts they create while synthesizing sugars.
In a sense, without this acidic waste, these oral bacteria would be no more harmful to us then the multitudes of helpful microbes that live in our guts. Unfortunately for us, however, there are a number of bacterial strains that love sugar and produce acid as a result.
In this sense, acid is a two-pronged threat. First, direct contact with acidic substances, such as sparkling water, can gradually physically wear away teeth.
Secondly, acidic byproducts produced by uncontrolled bacterial proliferation contribute to a process known as demineralization. In a balanced and healthy oral microbiome, some demineralization and subsequent remineralization are normal.
Some minerals in teeth are lost due to bacteria and acidic substances, however, healthy teeth are able to regain some of their minerals with time. In other words, teeth can, to a limited extent, repair the superficial damage. However, acid exposure over a long period of time, whether as a result of neglecting dental hygiene or exposing teeth to too much acid, can result in permanent demineralization and damage.
Signs of demineralization in teeth include translucent edges, white spots and other lesions on the tooth, sensitivity, and visible discoloration, small pits, and holes.
But Wait, There’s More --- Bottled Water
As it turns out, even so-called plain bottled water isn’t always the safest option. Bottled waters, depending on their source or point of origin and the bottling company can also have varying degrees of acidity. That’s right, that bottled water you thought was the safest beverage for your teeth might actually be slowly corroding your enamel.
Sparkling Water --- The Perfect Substitute?
Sparkling water may be slightly more acidic, and therefore more corrosive than perfectly PH neutral plain water. However, compared to other beverages someone might choose, such as soda loaded with sugar or highly acidic juices, sparkling water is beyond a doubt the better choice.
Many experts condone the consumption of sparkling water, within reasonable limits, on those exact grounds. Other experts go so far as to say that there is no genuinely measurable or noticeable difference between drinking sparkling or still water on teeth. In other words, sparkling water is just as safe for your teeth as regular plain water.
Sparkling, carbonated water might not be the perfect beverage, and certainly not as safe as flat purified water, but it is miles better than soda.
Our verdict? Stick with regular water. But if it comes to choosing between a seltzer or a cola, go with the sparkling water for healthier teeth.
Dentists Concord, CA
Willow Pass Dental Care is dedicated to providing the best dental care, including preventative dentistry, for both children and adults. Dr. Reza Khazaie will also be able to identify any worrying signs of dental malaise best before it gets out of hand, address any pressing dental concerns, and provide you with the care and advice you and your child need to build healthy dental habits.