You’ve cut down on your mocha maple double latte habit—good job! You’ve given up your sweet tea with lunch—great! You’re skipping flavored sports drinks and sticking to water at the gym—congratulations! You’ve swapped out soda for sparkling water—uh-oh, we have a problem. Even though it may seem like an innocent alternative, sparkling water can still be bad for your teeth!
This fact comes as a big surprise to most patients. After all, the deliciously flavored sparkling sodas that are gaining popularity these days say “0 calorie” and “no sweetener” and “low sodium” all over the cans. Some even go as far as to say “guilt-free”. Not as far as your dentist is concerned!
So with no sugar or other additives, what makes these drinks harmful? The answer lies hidden in those delightful sparkly bubbles themselves. Sparkling water gets its fizz from carbonation, or the injection of carbon dioxide gas into water. The gas forms tiny bubbles in the liquid, giving the drink a fresh and enjoyable sensation when you drink it. The side effect of this process is that the water goes from being relatively neutral on the acidity scale to about a 3. Carbonated water contains carbonic acid, which comes into direct contact with your teeth when you drink it.
As drinks go, an acidity of 3 isn’t really too bad. But if you’re someone who has sensitive tooth enamel or have already been experiencing enamel wear, we may recommend that you stick with plain water whenever possible. Think of flavored sparkling waters as a treat, not your main source of hydration. Your enamel is the hardest substance in your body and protects the softer, more vulnerable inner layers of your teeth from decay. When your enamel is gone, there’s no getting it back!
Obviously, given the choice between having our patients drink sugary drinks like soda pop and sparkling water, we’d prefer you choose sparkling water. But when you see marketing that claims a food or beverages is guilt-free, think of your teeth too!