Many Australians have decided on sparkling water as an alternative to soda since sparkling water offers the pleasant bubbliness of soda without empty calories, high sugar content, or chemical additives.
And because we are supposed to drink a great deal of liquid, two litres per day according to doctors, the different taste of sparkling water seems like a good, and tasty, way to go.
However, sparkling water has recently been in the news for having acid levels higher than that of regular water.
And sometimes studies have linked a higher level of acidity in beverages to eroded tooth enamel.
The reason for this is chemical– when carbon dioxide is dissolved in water to create carbonation, it produces carbonic acid, which at least theoretically can erode tooth enamel.
Because our patients have asked us about the safety of sparkling water, Cardiff Dental has taken an in-depth look at the subject to bring you the answer to the question, “Sparkling water – will it dull my smile?”
Sparkling water and your pearly whites
Most fizzy and carbonated drinks (including sodas and flavoured drinks) can damage your teeth by decreasing the pH of your mouth; in effect, making your mouth more acidic.
This pH reduction can cause an accelerated removal of minerals from your teeth, leading to cavities and other dental problems.
So how does sparkling water measure on pH?
- Your mouth has a pH of about 7.4
- Pure water has a pH level of 7
- Bottled water — even some of the non-fizzy variety — has a pH level of 5-7
- The pH level of flavoured sparkling water is generally between 3 and 4
- Sodas can be as low as 2
And it is this lowered pH that might cause problems.
Looking at the science
A University of Birmingham study in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, suggests that many flavoured sparkling waters have an erosive effect comparable to orange juice, which is known to soften tooth enamel.
In their tests, lemon, lime, and grapefruit were the most corrosive flavours due to their additional citric acid. Most of the damage observed in this study was due to flavouring, not the ‘sparkle’.
So what about plain sparkling water?
According to the American Dental Association, sparkling water is not harmful to teeth because the acidity of sparkling water is not high enough to demineralise and weaken your teeth. Enamel erosion is a slow process, and our saliva fights against it. Saliva contains enzymes and buffers that neutralise the acidity of carbonated water, which returns the PH level of your mouth to normal, according to Dr Peter Alldritt of the Australian Dental Association.
In fact, most dentists believe the risks are small.
Dentist Damien Walmsley, a professor of dentistry at the University of Birmingham says, “There is a theoretical risk of tooth erosion, but the drinks would have to be consumed over a long period.” He recommends keeping acidic drinks to meal times for complete safety.
In fact, most dentists believe that, while some laboratory studies have linked sparkling water to erosion, in practice the risk is minor. Professor David Manton from the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Dental School says that carbonated water is “generally safe for teeth as long as it is drunk in moderation”.
Of course, the best beverage to drink for your oral health is water that contains fluoride, but sparkling water seems to present minimal risk and a smaller risk than many other choices.
The advantages of unflavoured sparkling water and drinking it safely
Sparkling water is substantially better for your teeth than soda or juices, which are not only more erosive but also contain unhealthy amounts of sugar and empty calories. So the trick becomes to drink sparkling water safely.
Used the following strategies to make your sparkling water consumption safe.
- Don’t drink it all the time. The main problem with carbonated beverages is when they are continuously consumed as an alternative to plain water.
- Decrease sparkling water contact with teeth. The quicker you get any drink behind your teeth, the better. This decreases erosion time and allows saliva to neutralise the acid in your mouth. So don’t slowly sip. Instead, use a straw, drink quickly, and then move on.
- Drink it with a meal or snack. Eating stimulates the flow of acid-neutralising saliva.
- Don’t swish. Don’t hold or swish carbonated water in your mouth.
- Rinse with regular water after drinking sparkling water.
Cardiff Dental are:
- A comprehensive cosmetic, implant, and family dentist
- A local family owned and family run dental practice
- You have the option of seeing the same dentist every time
- Available to treat painful conditions on the same day
- One of the very few dental practices that are accredited by QIP (Quality Innovative Performance) for meeting the National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards
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