We know that we should stay hydrated for our health. And, we know that plain water is the healthiest way to remain hydrated. Still, many people are not willing to drink plain water all day and seek alternatives. Some of those alternatives are better for your teeth than others. We know that sipping soda all day long can be catastrophic for enamel health. But, what about those other carbonated drinks? Is carbonated water as dangerous for your teeth or as risky for your teeth as soda?
The answer lies somewhere in the middle.
Those bubbles in both soda and seltzer come from carbolic acid. If it sounds risky to bathe your teeth in acid, there’s a reason for that. It is. We know that when pH level of your mouth drops and becomes more acidic, the oral biofilm develops in an unhealthy direction. Bacteria associated with cavity development, particularly S. Mutans, overgrows and becomes hard to treat.
Normally, oral pH drops when we eat and rises over time due to the action of our saliva raising the oral pH back to normal levels. Plain water does not interfere with saliva’s important job and can help by helping the body make more saliva. Carbonated water can continue to lower the pH of the mouth, interfering with the normal pH cycle and aggravating some factors that contribute to cavity growth.
So far, we’ve only discussed the carbonation, but most people who choose to sip seltzer all day don’t drink plain seltzer. They choose flavored water. The flavorings add to the acidic effect of carbonation in the water, particularly when they introduce citric acid and other pH lowering ingredients. Some flavored seltzer can start to approach pH levels similar to sodas. Although flavored seltzer lacks the sugar of soda, it still is highly acidic.
The direct acid level of the seltzer is not the only risk involved. People who suffer from dry mouth tend to find the citric acid in flavored seltzer dehydrating, exacerbating the risks of the existing dry mouth, increased risk of infection and tooth decay. Suddenly, the effort to stay hydrated might cause a worsening of the very symptoms you are trying to avoid.
So what’s the Bottom Line?
If you’re suffering from dry mouth, flavored carbonated water is not a great choice. If you’re trying to kick a soda habit, flavored carbonated water might be a good transitional drink, but it’s probably not the best long-term health choice. As an infrequent treat, it’s probably not the worst choice.
If you’re suffering from dry mouth, try sipping plain water or plain green tea. Using an oral spray for dry mouth or chewing xylitol gum may also help alleviate symptoms without increasing the risk of cavities.