Is Sparkling Water Bad For Your Teeth?

Dr. Reza Written by Dr. Reza Khazaie

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?

Is Sparkling Water Bad for Your Teeth? - Willow Pass Dental Care, Concord, CA

What is sparkling water?

Sparkling water, also known as carbonated water, seltzer water, or fizzy water, is plain water that has been infused with carbon dioxide gas under pressure, creating effervescence or bubbles.

Key points about sparkling water:

  1. Carbonation: The main characteristic of sparkling water is the presence of bubbles, which are caused by dissolved carbon dioxide gas. This carbonation can occur naturally (as in some mineral waters) or be artificially infused.
  2. Types: There are various types of sparkling water, including seltzer (plain carbonated water), club soda (carbonated water with added minerals), and naturally sparkling mineral water (from natural springs).
  3. Ingredients: In its purest form, sparkling water contains only water and carbon dioxide. However, some brands may add natural or artificial flavors, sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other additives.
  4. Taste: Sparkling water has a slightly different taste than plain water. It is often described as crisp, refreshing, or slightly tart due to the carbonic acid formed when carbon dioxide dissolves in water.
  5. Health effects: Sparkling water is generally considered a healthy alternative to sugary beverages. It can help with hydration and may aid in digestion for some people. However, the acidity of carbonated water can potentially contribute to tooth erosion if consumed excessively or over an extended period.
  6. Versatility: Sparkling water can be enjoyed on its own or used as a mixer for cocktails or mocktails. It can also be flavored with natural ingredients like fruit, herbs, or juice.

Overall, sparkling water is a refreshing and low-calorie beverage option that can add variety to your hydration choices. As with any drink, it’s essential to consume it in moderation and be mindful of any added ingredients that may have health implications.

Bad bubbles?

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

When it comes to oral health, plain water is generally considered the best choice. Here’s a comparison of sparkling water and plain water:

Sparkling water

  1. Acidity: Carbonated water is slightly acidic (pH around 3-4) due to the presence of carbonic acid. This acidity can contribute to tooth erosion over time, especially with frequent consumption.
  2. Dental erosion: The acidity in sparkling water can soften tooth enamel, making it more susceptible to erosion and decay. This risk is higher if you sip sparkling water throughout the day or if you have a dry mouth.
  3. Additional ingredients: Some sparkling water brands may contain added citric acid, sugar, or artificial sweeteners, which can further increase the risk of tooth decay or erosion.

Plain water

  1. Neutral pH: Plain water has a neutral pH of around 7, which doesn’t contribute to tooth erosion.
  2. Hydration: Drinking plain water helps maintain good hydration, which is essential for overall health, including oral health. Adequate hydration also helps maintain healthy saliva flow, which neutralizes acids and protects teeth from decay.
  3. Rinsing effect: Drinking plain water after meals or sugary/acidic beverages can help rinse away food particles and acids, reducing their contact time with your teeth.
  4. Fluoride: In many areas, tap water is fluoridated, which helps strengthen tooth enamel and protect against decay.

While sparkling water is still a better choice than sugary or acidic beverages, plain water remains the best option for maintaining good oral health.

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.

If you enjoy sparkling water, consider drinking it in moderation, preferably with meals, and rinsing your mouth with plain water afterward. It’s also crucial to maintain good oral hygiene habits, such as brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily, to protect your teeth from potential erosion or decay.

“Our verdict? Stick with regular water. But when choosing between a seltzer or a soda, go with the sparkling water for healthier teeth.” — Dr. Reza Kahzaie

What is the best sparkling water, health-wise?

When choosing the healthiest sparkling water, you should consider factors such as the absence of added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and other potentially harmful ingredients. The best sparkling water options are those that closely resemble plain water with the addition of carbonation. Here are some of the healthiest sparkling water choices:

Plain sparkling water: Unflavored sparkling water with no added ingredients is the healthiest option. Look for brands that contain only carbonated water, such as Perrier, San Pellegrino, or Topo Chico.

Naturally carbonated mineral water: Some sparkling mineral waters are naturally carbonated and contain naturally occurring minerals like calcium, magnesium, and sodium. Examples include Gerolsteiner and Ferrarelle.

Unsweetened flavored sparkling water: Some brands offer sparkling water with natural flavors and no added sugars or artificial sweeteners. Examples include La Croix Sparkling Water, Spindrift Sparkling Water (which uses real fruit juice), and Bubly Sparkling Water.

Sparkling water with natural ingredients: Some sparkling waters are infused with natural ingredients like herbs, fruit essences, or tea. Choose options without added sugars or artificial ingredients, such as Sound Sparkling Water or Aura Bora.

When selecting sparkling water, always read the label to ensure there are no added sugars, artificial sweeteners, or other unhealthy ingredients. Remember that even the healthiest sparkling water options can contribute to tooth erosion if consumed excessively or sipped throughout the day due to their carbonic acid content. It’s best to drink sparkling water in moderation, preferably with meals, and maintain good oral hygiene habits.