Health

This Popular Sugar-Free Drink Is Actually Bad for Your Teeth

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If you’ve ever been to Europe, you may have noticed that sparkling water is the norm. It’s one of those strange preferences that I loved when I visited Italy (besides the heaps of homemade pasta, of course). It certainly felt like it elevated the meals, too. I brought my new sparkling water habit home and quickly found myself testing different seltzer brands every week. However, I didn’t realize until much later that my love for the carbonated beverage wasn’t great for my oral health. Research suggests that sparkling water may be bad for teeth.  

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Why is sparkling water bad for your teeth? 

To understand why drinking lots of carbonated water could negatively affect my teeth, I reached out to Dr. Filza Jamil, DMD, of Lotus Smiles Dentistry. “Tooth enamel starts to weaken in an acidic environment,” Dr. Jamil tells First for Women. “A pH level of 5.5 or lower can begin this chemical process of tooth demineralization. While tap and still waters are generally in a safe neutral range around 7, the average pH of cold, carbonated waters is 4.5. Sparkling waters also lack the added benefit of fluoride, a mineral which has been shown to promote the strength of tooth enamel and fight tooth decay. As your teeth lose the protection of the hard outer shell of enamel, they are less resistant to bacteria and at higher risk of cavities.”  

While sparkling water isn’t the worst drink for your teeth, it’s important to be mindful of how much you consume, and what kind. The American Dental Association notes that citrus-flavored beverages tend to have even higher acid levels. Drinking citrus-y seltzer can further increase the risk that you damage your tooth enamel.  

In addition, Dr. Jamil points out that sugary drinks like soda are still worse when it comes to oral health. “Sugary drinks are far, far worse for the long-term health of your teeth as they can not only be even more acidic than sparkling water – Coke and Pepsi are at a pH of 2.5.” she says. “The high amounts of sugars present in these drinks will encourage the growth of sticky cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. Bacterial plaque can build up very quickly and increase the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.” That’s more than enough reasons to avoid soda for me!   

How to Still Enjoy Sparkling Water 

If you’re devastated by the news, don’t worry. You can still drink sparkling water! “I believe sparkling water is still a great alternative for sugary soft drinks or fruit juices, as long as there are no additional sugars or additives,” Dr. Jamil says.  

However, it’s better to drink it in moderation, over shorter periods of time, and with meals. “I would suggest to drink it over a 10-to-15-minute period rather than over long periods, and/or drink seltzer with a meal,” she adds. “This will encourage saliva production, which can neutralize the acid in your mouth. Moderation is better for both your teeth and GI health. Continue to drink regular, fluoridated water as your main source of hydration to stay healthy and keep you smiling.” So, the next time you open a crisp can of seltzer or a bottle of sparkling water, just remember to enjoy it with a delicious meal.  

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