As patients of West Linn dentist Dr. Dugger know, regularly drinking soda can lead to some serious oral health issues. That’s because soda contains two of the most highly corrosive substances that can damage tooth enamel – sugar and carbonic acid.
Plaque – a sticky biofilm comprised of harmful oral bacteria – uses the sugars we consume to produce acids that slowly erode away tooth enamel. The more sugar we consume in our daily diets, the more damage plaque can cause to the health of our teeth.
Drinking soda also increases the pH levels in our mouths to become more acidic. A healthy mouth will typically have a neutral pH level, but one that is more acidic makes for a less hospitable environment for our tooth enamel. Once again, drinking soda can directly lead to an increased risk of decay, cavities, and tooth loss.
Recently, sparkling water has become a popular alternative to not only drinking soda, but also as a growing trend among millennials. However, while the bubbly beverage may offer a sugar-free alternative to soda, drinking it as a daily substitute may not do much to protect the health of our teeth. In fact, the beverage’s high acidity levels may wear tooth enamel down just as dramatically as soda.
A Safer Alternative?
“The dental safety of sparkling water is not a heavily researched area,” cautions a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. “What we do know, however, it that many commonly consumed beverages (for example waters, juices, sodas, and sports drinks) are, to varying degrees, acidic, as measured by their pH.”
The ADA further explains that since acidic beverages can erode tooth enamel, sparking waters could also be corrosive as additives found in the beverages may increase their acidity.
As the name might suggest, carbonated water is fizzy because of the addition of carbon dioxide. When you drink sparkling water, a chemical reaction occurs that transform carbon dioxide into carbonic acid, which not only accounts for the desirable crispness these types of beverages offer the taste buds, but increased acidity as well. And if you have a habit of drinking sparkling water as or more frequently than regular water, then this could become a problem.
“If you’re sipping and keeping that acidic drink in your mouth and swishing around every time you sip, and if you do this often, multiple times a day, then that’s probably the most dangerous kind of behavior when it comes to tooth wear,” cautions researchers from the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry.
So how much sparkling water is too much to drink during the day. It’s easy to track the amount of sugar in a bottle of soda and compare that to what the daily recommended amount is per day. But sparkling water offers a sugar and calorie-free alternative that leaves little to point to when trying to determine what constitutes as too much.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a number we can put out there as a good answer because it depends on a number of variables,” say researchers. “If you’re healthy and if you have normal saliva flow, you’re less vulnerable so your risk is lower and you can possibly drink a little bit more often.”
Protecting Your Oral Health
Before you decide that it’s just easier to go back to drinking soda, know that your West Linn dentist still thinks that sparkling water is a far better alternative. In fact, drinking mineral water could even be beneficial due to the natural compounds that it contains.
If you’re worried that a serious LaCroix habit may be taking its toll on your teeth, be on the lookout for oral pain, tooth discoloration, tooth sensitivity, and any evidence of cracks or chips. All of these symptoms are potential signs of enamel erosion.
While drinking plain water might not be as a tasty alternative, it’s still the safest and healthiest option for your teeth.