Sure, you know that Coca-Cola isn’t the most nutritious beverage you could be drinking, and you know that plain old, boring water is the best thing to keep you hydrated, but just what role does fizz play in the health of your teeth? As more and more seltzer waters and at-home carbonation machines hit the market, you might be wondering whether or not your beloved bubbles are damaging your teeth. This article will clear up some of the common questions many people have about carbonation and tooth health.
Carbonic Acid and You
Carbonated beverages get their signature fizz from the addition of an acid…
Carbonic acid, to be specific.
Carbonic acid is created when carbon dioxide is put under high pressure and then infused with still water. (Hammond, 2015)
While this process sounds harmless, acids have gained a bit of a reputation for causing damage to the teeth due to the erosion of our naturally-occurring enamel. (Gambon, 2010)
How Acidic is Too Acidic?
Most of the swirling rumors around carbonation and tooth damage can be linked back to a 2007 study that found that when teeth were exposed to carbonated seltzer water for thirty minutes, the effects on the enamel were just as damaging as orange juice. (Brown et. al, 2007) While that finding alone might have you ready to throw your Soda Steam in the garbage immediately, experts now agree that this finding isn’t as severe as it seems- the only thing it really found is that seltzer water is only slightly more damaging than still water because carbonic acid is much weaker than comparable beverages. (Khazan, 2016)
All About That pH
When it comes to carbonation and tooth health, it’s all about pH. pH is a measure used in chemistry to rate how acidic or basic something is- it’s generally accepted that the more acidic whatever you’re measuring is, the more it’s going to damage your teeth. On the pH scale (which ranges from 1 to 14), still water generally ranks at a nice even 7, meaning that it’s right in the middle between very basic (14) and very acidic (1). (Khazan, 2016) Seltzer water ranks at about 5.5, meaning that it’s only a little bit corrosive. On the other hand, that Dr. Pepper in the vending machine at your office comes in at about a 2.5, meaning that it’s significantly more damaging than seltzer.
How Can I Decrease Carbonation Damage?
If you just can’t put down the Perrier, there are a few steps experts agree you can take to reduce the damage carbonated beverages can have on your teeth:
- Opt for unflavoured seltzer water instead of soda to get your fizzy fix.
- Try to limit your carbonation intake to no more than three drinks a week.
- Brush your teeth immediately after drinking a carbonated drink- especially if your drink was colored or flavored.
- If you don’t have time to brush your teeth, swishing with still water can restore your natural pH.
So, are carbonated beverages bad for your teeth? The answer is- it depends what you’re drinking. In relation to still water, unflavored seltzer water is a bit damaging due to the acidity, which has detrimental effects on the enamel of the teeth. If you’re addicted to Pepsi or Coke, you’re doing significantly more harm to your teeth due not only to the added sugars and colors, but also because the pH is so much lower than still water. The key, as with most health issues, is moderation.
Brown, Catriona J., Gay Smith, Linda Shaw, Jason Parry, and Anthony J. Smith. “The Erosive Potential of Flavoured Sparkling Water Drinks.” International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry Int J Paediatr Dent 17.2 (2007): 86-91. Web.
Gambon, D. L. “Soft Drink, Software and Softening of Teeth – a Case Report of Tooth Wear in the Mixed Dentition Due to a Combination of Dental Erosion and Attrition.” TODENTJ The Open Dentistry Journal 4.1 (2010): 198-200. Web. 7 Oct. 2016.
Hammond, Claudia. “Is Sparkling Water Really Bad for You?” BBC. N.p., 15 Sept. 2015. Web. 07 Oct. 2016.
Khazan, Olga. “The Sad Truth About Seltzer.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 1 Feb. 2016. Web. 07 Oct. 2016.