Research suggests that carbonated water can be almost as bad for your teeth as soda.

Research suggests that carbonated water can be almost as bad for your teeth as soda.
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It's a well-documented fact that soda is terrible for your health. Most pop drinks are laden with sugar and caffeine, in addition to the degrading affects of carbonation on tooth enamel. So, what are you going to do, drink water? Blegh! That's why mankind invented cool refreshing seltzer, for when you want excitement for your tongue without degrading the health of your body.

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Illuminated by God's fizz.
Shutterstock

Like all fun things, the illusion that seltzer is good for you—or at the very least neutral—is getting dispelled. Last September, the BBC compiled research on the effects of seltzer and debunked or confirmed people's worries about it. The good news is that seltzer is not hurting stomachs with all the widdle bubbles: 

The result is that water contains the weak acid, carbonic acid. If you gulp it down it can of course give you hiccups or indigestion. But what if you drink it at a more measured pace? Is there any truth in the idea that it harms your stomach?

Quite the reverse, it appears. In a small but double-blinded randomised trial, patients with frequent dyspepsia or constipation were assigned to drink either still or sparkling water for 15 days. Then they were given a series of tests. Both conditions improved in the people drinking sparkling water and showed no improvement in those drinking tap water.

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Then in late January, Olga Khazan of The Atlantic asked this on Twitter:

Which started an Internet dentist bruhaha. Khazan parsed through the responses and did some research as well, and settled on this:

Unless they’re flavored with citric or other acids, seltzers tend to have more neutral pH values than soft drinks like Coke. While bottled flat water has a pH of about 7—or totally neutral—that of Perrier is about 5.5.

The flavorings, though, can bring the pH down, making the beverages even harsher on tooth enamel. One 2007 study in which researchers exposed human teeth to flavored sparkling waters for 30 minutes found the waters to be roughly as corrosive as orange juice. “It would be inappropriate to consider these flavored sparkling waters as a healthy dental alternative to other acidic drinks,” that study concluded.

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Essentially, the carbonic acid mentioned in the tummy passage by the BBC is what changes the pH values in your seltzer, which in turn can degrade your teeth as much as something sugary like Mountain Dew or OJ. Carbonic acid tends to be much stronger in flavored seltzers, like lemon or lime, which is a double bummer because they're the tastiest.

There is hope, though! A dentist in Wilmington, Delaware, name Andrew Swiatowicz told Khazan this:

For an average, healthy person, carbonated, sugar-free beverages are not going to be a main cavity-causing factor... If you are at all concerned, you can always dilute the carbonated water with regular water, or even just swish with regular water after.

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Swish after you spritz, and it's probably fine. Or read between the lines and understand that this dentist is really saying he's got bigger cavities to fill, so chill out about your mocktail.

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