Since many people are now aware of the health problems associated with sugary drinks and carbonated beverages like soda, they have been turning in large numbers to alternatives like sparkling water. In fact, carbonated water sales have skyrocketed in recent years, leading many to wonder if these drinks are a safe alternative to their sugary cousins.
“When talking about tooth erosion, it all comes down to pH,” notes Dr. David Brusky. “Generally speaking, the longer acidic substances are in contact with your tooth enamel, the more likely you’ll experience erosion over time.”
About pH and Tooth Health
The pH scale is a measurement of how acidic or basic solutions are. A neutral liquid like pure water has a pH of 7.0; an extremely acidic substance like battery acid has a pH of 0 to 1; and a very alkaline (basic) compound like bleach has a pH of 13 to 14.
The pH of our own body varies by region; stomach acid can range from a pH of 1 to 5, depending on whether the body is resting or digesting. Overall, our blood tends to maintain a slightly alkaline pH of 7.35-7.45.
When teeth are exposed to acidic liquids, this can lead to erosion and ultimately breakdown. The good news is, the body strives for homeostasis, usually maintaining its pH balance. In the mouth, this is done by saliva production. Saliva acts as a buffer against harmful acid, and is partially responsible for preventing tooth erosion.
Carbonated Waters Are Not All Equal
Plain carbonated water consists of carbon dioxide added to water. When these chemicals are combined and ingested, they produce carbonic acid. This acid, not the bubbles, produces the tingling sensation people experience when drinking carbonated beverages.
“The important thing to consider when choosing a drink is what additives it contains,” notes Dr. Brusky. “There are so many variations these days with sparkling water that it’s important to read the label.”
There is a wide array of carbonated water available today, including many types of: seltzer water, mineral water, club soda, and tonic water. The more sugar these drinks contain, the more damage they will likely do to teeth. The same can be said for flavored water, particularly those that contain citrus flavors like orange, lemon, or lime.
“All things considered, however,” says Dr. Brusky, “it is still better to drink carbonated water than sugary, more acidic alternatives like soda or orange juice.”
Tips on Drinking Carbonated Beverages and Avoiding Tooth Erosion
When considering how to combat the effect of tooth erosion caused by carbonated beverages, these tips may help:
- Rinse with plain water. For those who choose to consume drinks other than water, it’s helpful to rinse their mouth out with plain water afterward to help negate some of the potentially harmful effects on the teeth.
- Decrease the frequency of sipping. It’s best not to sip sugary, acidic, or carbonated beverages throughout the day. If possible, such drinks should be consumed only at mealtime.
- Drink through a straw when possible. Using a straw helps minimize the drink’s direct contact with tooth enamel and can prevent a bit of wear and tear.
- Wait an hour after eating before brushing. It usually takes some time for the mouth to remineralize the teeth after being exposed to acidic substances.
- Chew sugar-free gum. This can increase saliva production between meals, helping maintain the mouth’s pH balance and prevent dry mouth.
- Brush with a fluoride-containing and/or remineralizing toothpaste. Pairing a soft toothbrush with toothpaste that has fluoride can cut down on tooth sensitivity and promote tooth strength and health.
Dr. Brusky concludes, “While drinking unflavored carbonated water is certainly better for your teeth than sugary or acidic drinks, plain water is still best. For optimal oral health, also be sure to visit your dentist on a regular basis.”
If you’re worried about tooth erosion or decay, contact our office today to schedule your appointment.