Sparkling Water: A Surprising Cause of Cavities

Most people know that sugary foods and drinks can lead to tooth decay. Everyone knows that soda and candy are not good for your teeth. A lot of people don’t know that sparkling water can also hurt your teeth.

In recent years, sparkling water has become more popular, so people often ask us if it’s bad for their teeth to drink carbonated water. Even though most sparkling water is just carbonated water (and maybe a few minerals) with natural flavors, most people don’t expect it to be as acidic as soda, which usually has phosphoric acid. Due to the way carbonation works, which makes carbonic acid, sparkling water is very acidic.

Yes, Sparkling Water Can Harm Your Teeth!

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK wanted to find out if sparkling water could wear away tooth enamel.

First, they looked at the pH of different sparkling waters and found that most of them had a pH of around 3. (ranging from 2.7-3.4). This has the same low pH level as most soft drinks.

This group of researchers took some teeth that had been pulled out and put them in glasses with different flavors of carbonated water. They found that carbonation does wear down tooth enamel. In fact, they found that flavored sparkling water is just as bad for teeth as orange juice, which is known to be very bad for teeth.

This is what this group of researchers came to the conclusion of:

Flavored sparkling waters should be thought of as potentially erosive, and advice on how to drink them safely should treat them as potentially acidic drinks rather than flavored water.

In other words, sparkling water can wear away the enamel on your teeth and shouldn’t even be called “water.” Rather, it would be better to call it an “acidic drink.”

What Does This Mean for Your Teeth?

Enamel is the hardest thing a person has. It is a layer that protects the nerves and blood vessels in the center of our teeth. Our teeth are there to help us chew food, and the enamel is there to protect them from the mechanical and chemical forces they have to deal with. Anything that makes enamel soft, wears away, or breaks is bad because it makes the tooth weaker. Enamel erosion makes it easier for bacteria in our mouths to cause cavities. It can also cause your teeth to break down in a big way, which means you’ll need more dental work in the future.

The pH level in a healthy mouth is just a little bit above neutral (7.0). Acids are things that are less than neutral. At a pH of 5.5 or below, enamel starts to soften or lose its minerals. Many of the things we eat and drink have pH levels that are lower than 5.5. When acid is gone from a normal, healthy mouth, saliva can act as a buffer and bring the pH back up to 7. (i.e. once you have stopped eating or drinking).

What Should You Do?

Think about the sparkling water you drink. Some sparkling waters are flavored with citrus flavors like lemon, lime, orange, etc., which add citric acid on top of the carbonic acid.

Pay close attention to how much sparkling water you drink. You should never be drinking more sparkling water than regular water.

Do not sip slowly on acidic drinks all day long. This makes it harder for your saliva to maintain a neutral pH in your mouth. Quickly drink it.
Rinse your mouth with water after drinking sparkling water to quickly get it back to a neutral pH.

If you just drank something acidic, chew sugar-free gum. This helps to get a good flow of saliva going and brings the pH back to a neutral level.

Special Considerations

If you have a lot of cavities, you shouldn’t drink anything acidic. If your mouth is dry, you don’t have enough saliva to fight off the acid in these drinks, so you should avoid all acidic drinks.

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