We all know that soda, juice, and sports drinks are a no-no for teeth, but what about sparkling water or seltzer?? In the last few years, seltzer has increased in popularity and there are so many choices of brands and flavors now, it can be a fun treat for adults and kids alike. Most varieties have zero sugar, zero calories, and zero artificial sweeteners, but yet you’ll see headlines that sparkling water is actually bad for your teeth – how can that be??
The bubbles in any carbonated beverage are from the addition of carbonic acid, which as the name implies, is acidic in nature. The reason this can be tricky for teeth is cavities are caused by an imbalance in the acidity of the mouth. Sugars and acidic foods lower the pH of the mouth, which can erode enamel and cause wear and/or cavities. Beverages like sugary sodas and energy drinks are a double whammy because they’re both high in sugar and carbonic acid. But what about seltzer? The average pH of sparkling water is about 4.5, and enamel can start to break down when the pH of the mouth is less than 5.5. Just for reference, the pH of Coke is 2.4, Gatorade is 3, orange juice is about 3.5, and water is 7. Thankfully saliva is full of mineral buffers that help keep the pH of the mouth as consistent as possible, so it’s all about balance.
So, long story short, are sparkling waters great for your teeth? Not really. But they’re not as bad as most of the other things we drink (besides regular water, of course). The pH of most seltzers might be below the critical pH for most mouths, but the borderline pH of seltzer was shown in a study to not break down enamel any more than regular water. The American Dental Association (ADA) even published an article earlier this year giving the green light for sparkling water. Since regular water (especially fluoridated) is still our #1 choice, our recommendation is to avoid overdoing it on seltzer this summer, but your family can enjoy an occasional La Croix just about guilt-free!