If you’ve ditched sugary sodas for the sweet innocence of sparkling water like La Croix, it may be time for a reality check. All carbonated beverages have the bubbly bubbles, which – though they look pretty floating up to the top of your third straight glass – doesn’t vibe with the pH balance (more on it in a bit) of your mouth, which can wear at your tooth enamel. But, you might be wondering, as you flirt with cracking your fourth can of lemon sparkling, how serious is the risk?
Give it to me straight.
Did you know everything you ingest can affect your teeth? Everything you eat or drink has a range of acidity which affects the pH balance in your mouth. We don’t want to get too technical but just so you can get how real this is – Orange juice, which is highly acidic, has a pH balance of about 3.5. Milk, on the other hand, is nearly neutral with a pH of 6.8. And plain old water, coming it at 7 on the pH scale, is as neutral as it gets.
Low pH liquids and foods can wear at tooth enamel. Of course, with anything, moderation and other factors weigh into the true risk. Drinking a glass of orange juice each morning is not a death sentence for your teeth, especially if you have a balanced diet, don’t overdo it with sugar, and use a fluoride toothpaste. (You’re good like that, right?) But if orange juice represents 90% of your diet—and we don’t recommend it is—you’re probably doing some damage to your pearly whites.
On a scale of nbd to all of my teeth will fall out, where is sparkling water?
Again, back to the real sciency-science stuff: Sparkling water comes in at about a 5.5 on the pH scale. It’s no milk, but it’s also a safer bet than regularly chugging OJ. What gives it more acidity than neutral water is the carbonic acid—those delightful, tingly little bubbles we all know and love.
And we hate to do this.
That’s plain sparkling water. Those delicious flavors added to your La Croix or Pellegrino actually lower the pH of the beverage, making them just as corrosive as other acidic beverages. Hey, orange juice. Good to see you again.
We talked to orthodontist Dr. Anna Bonaiuto to learn a bit more about acidic beverages—what does it really mean that flavored sparkling water is acidic? She explained: “Acid is what demineralizes our teeth. Enamel is 96% mineral and gets dissolved by acid, which is what weakens it and wears it down (erosion).”
And when we have erosion, Dr. Bonaiuto revealed the real consequences for your oral health. “When this protective hard layer of your teeth gets worn down it leads to several issues like sensitivity to temperature, notching in the tooth especially around the neck of the tooth where enamel is its thinnest, and yellowing and darkening of the tooth because you’re wearing down the shiny brighter layer of your tooth and exposing the darker inner layer (dentin).” Dr. Bonaiuto explained that the thinner your enamel layer is, the more susceptible you are to cavities.
But, despite the lowered pH in flavored sparkling water, these are still a better choice than sugary—and even diet—colas. So if, after reading about your acidic carbonated water, you think nothing matters anymore and you want to run out to do the dew, stop yourself. Sparkling water is definitely better for your chompers than Mountain Dew.
So, do I have to quit?
Flavored sparkling waters are not the best thing for your teeth—that’s regular water—and they’re not the worst either. But if you’re worried about your tooth enamel, do you need to quit those enchanting little bubbles altogether?
Dr. Bonaiuto’s take? “If you enjoy sparkling water over lunch a few times a week, it’s probably ‘no big deal.’ If you ONLY drink mineral water all day long (like my own father does) then you are most likely inflicting some serious damage.”
So, the amount of sparkling water you drink is a factor. If you throw back a case a day, it’s a good idea to start cutting back. Although hydrating, sparkling water should not be your primary source of hydration every day. If you can limit your sparkling water to mealtimes and drink regular water during the rest of the day, you can help curb the negative effects of the lower pH. Be sure to use a toothpaste with fluoride, and when you opt for regular water, choose tap water over bottled. Tap water typically contains fluoride, so you’ll get a little extra protection. For the average person following a healthy balanced diet, carbonated water isn’t going to be a big cavity causer.
If you’re still concerned about your tooth enamel but you can’t quit pamplemousse, you can always dilute your sparkling water a bit with regular water. Swishing some plain old water after drinking a can of your favorite fizz will also help flush the carbonic acid from your mouth quickly. Bonus tip: This is also a great way to help clean your mouth after eating or drinking anything, and can help save your breath between brushings.
The bottom line?
Sparkling water on its own is not terribly acidic, but flavored sparkling water falls between fruit juice and soda when it comes to low pH. Despite the potential risks, Dr. Bonaiuto is not in favor of an all-out sparkling water ban. “Enjoy your La Croix, San Pellegrino, Trader Joe’s Club Soda—whatever it may be, but just makes sure you are throwing water into the mix and you’re not just sipping on carbonated beverages continuously throughout the day, every day.”
Take it from a DDS: Balancing fizzy drinks with regular water and limiting your sugar consumption is the best way to ensure your enamel is not worn down by those acidic, albeit delightful, little flavor bubbles.
Is anyone else thirsty? I hear some lemon La Croix calling my name.